The Weedsport FitnessGram: A Closer Look


The beginnings and endings of the school year always have one thing in common: change. From new classes to new beginnings, change is always the main theme of the start and the finish. One thing that never changes at Weedsport is the FitnessGram. 

The Weedsport Jr. Sr. High School FitnessGram is based on the Cooper Institute FitnessGram. The Cooper Institute is a non for-profit charity that’s goal is to, “create a world where everyone lives long, healthy lives.” One way the Cooper institute seeks to keep people, but specifically students, healthy is the FitnessGram test.

The FitnessGram’s goal is to test the participants aerobic capacity, muscular strength/endurance/flexibility, and body composition. The Weedsport FitnessGram uses all of these components.

For aerobic capacity, students have to run a mile in under 15:00 and do the PACER test. The PACER test is a test invented by the Cooper Institute that consists of students running back and forth between 20 meters. Each lap is signified by a beep sound that gets progressively faster as each lap goes along. When a student fails to complete a lap twice, they are out.

The PACER test has grown infamous in internet culture, specifically the automated announcement at the start of the test. The announcement goes as follows “The FitnessGram™ Pacer Test is a multistage aerobic capacity test that progressively gets more difficult as it continues. The 20 meter pacer test will begin in 30 seconds. Line up at the start. The running speed starts slowly, but gets faster each minute after you hear this signal. beep A single lap should be completed each time you hear this sound. ding Remember to run in a straight line, and run as long as possible. The second time you fail to complete a lap before the sound, your test is over. The test will begin on the word start. On your mark, get ready, start.”

For muscular strength and endurance, students have to record and see how many push ups and curl ups they can do. For muscular flexibility, students have to do the sit and reach. The sit and reach is when a student stretches out one leg resting their soles of their feet flat on the sit and reach box with knees locked. With palms flat on top of each other, the student reaches forward along the measuring line on the sit and reach box. The student repeats the reach two more times before switching their leg and doing it all over again. 

For body composition, students get their height, weight, BMI (Body Mass Index), and percent fat calculated. 

Weedsport Jr. Sr. High School Athletic Director Robert Piascik calls the FitnessGram an, “…assessment designed to give students feedback on their overall physical fitness. It’s vital information to have when you’re planning healthy exercise routines outside of Phys. Ed…”

Though the FitnessGram may be beneficial, many students do not like the test. Weedsport Jr. Sr. High School students Lillian Rubeck and Megan House both failed their initial mile because they were over 15 minutes. House redid her mile while Rubeck decided to take the failing grade. 

“It’s technically not even required, and doing the FitnessGram twice a year isn’t actually going to help us, so why am I going to do it?” said Rubeck. 

It is true that the FitnessGram is not required by state or national law, but Weedsport uses the FitnessGram in order to achieve their standard three in physical education. In New York State, there are six standards or six guidelines that physical education teachers have to follow. The New York State standard three is that a student “demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.”

“That’s a fancy way of saying we want students to be able to do healthy things outside of phys ed.,” said Piascik.

There are other reasons students don’t like the FitnessGram. House cites that sport restrictions are what caused her to have to redo the mile.  

“My coach actually got really mad that they made us do the mile because we had a meet that day and she didn’t want us wasting our energy on the mile,” said House. 

Many students have also found the FitnessGram to be triggering to their body confidence.

“Some of my friends don’t like to hear about their height and their weight because it sends them into a downward spiral. Some of them even stop eating,” said House. 

Though Piascik understands that students do not like the FitnessGram, he still believes that Weedsport should have it because of the benefits. 

“…You may not like a certain book you read in ELA or a certain project you work on in art class but they all have value…It’s not a perfect test and it doesn’t necessarily account for every aspect of physical fitness. It’s kind of generalized…There are certain ranges that we expect you to be in but it’s just a measurement of your current status. Those ranges were created scientifically where you would start to experience some benefits of positive physical health. If you are outside of those ranges you would be more likely to develop some of those lifelong problems that we are trying to avoid. It definitely has some value if it is used properly,” said Piascik. 

On the flipside, students do not want the FitnessGram even though there are some benefits of it. Not to say that students are uncompromising. They do have an idea of what kind of test they would want. 

“I would want a test that would be more specific to all the parts of your body,” said Rubeck. 

Piascik isn’t unwilling to install a different way to reach the third standard. 

“…We are always looking at different ways to achieve those standards that help students…,” said Piascik. 

Change may be coming to Weedsport after all.