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Fitness Evaluation Needs Re-Evaluating

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Gym students staying fit

Gym students staying fit

Kate Cressey

Kate Cressey

Gym students staying fit

Maggie Keane, Sentry Staff Reporter

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Twice a year, students taking gym class–primarily freshmen and sophomores–are required to participate in the fitness test. Students are divided by gender and age as the requirements for each test vary based on those two factors. Considering the amount of students in the school, this may seem like the most efficient way to get the mandatory tests done. However, while it may be the simplest way, the current fitness tests are narrow-minded and unfair to every participant.

The fitness test is made up of five different tasks: the fifteen meter PACER test, push-ups, sit and reach, sit-ups and trunk lift. The requirements for each task have a wide range between boys and girls. The requirements are based on national averages for male and female students of each age. For instance, fifteen year old boys must complete eighteen push-ups while girls of the same age only need to do seven. For the sit and reach, girls age fifteen must stretch to twelve inches while boys of the same age only need to reach ten inches. For the PACER, boys must run sixty eight laps while girls must only complete forty-two.

Gym class is supposed to encourage students to exercise. However, when the fitness test gives girls such a lower standard than boys, it makes them feel weak and inferior. As a girl, why try when the school is basically telling you that you will never reach the same standard as a boy? Sexism begins at an early age. Seemingly petty things such as a high-school fitness test can have a major impact on a girl’s self-esteem. If the school is rejecting her physical possibilities, will the rest of the world? It is 2015 and it is time that we start trying to build girls up instead of tearing them down, even in this seemingly trivial way.

Some male high schoolers may look like they could be entering the sixth grade while girls of the same age could easily pass as their babysitters. It is ridiculous to assume that these boys, who are clearly much smaller, should have to reach such a drastically different standard than the larger girls strictly because of their gender. Most freshmen and sophomores are still going through puberty. One fifteen year old boy may be 6’3” and needs to shave every day while another boy the same age is a foot shorter and drinking protein shakes so he can try to match his peers. It is not fair that these two individuals have to reach the same qualification. When the smaller boy has to quit because he cannot complete the push-up portion, it can lead to some major insecurities. When he is told that he has to be able to meet the qualification because of his gender, he is told he is not good enough because he cannot reach a pointless limit.

As society evolves and becomes more accepting of transgender and gender fluid individuals, schools need to do the same for their students. That starts with changing or eliminating potentially offensive activities. The gender division of the fitness test singles these individuals out for their differences, making them feel even more ostracized than they already do. Which qualification are these students supposed to meet? Maybe they should be allowed to pick either standard. That solution however, would raise some complications. If these individuals are allowed to choose, can all students?

There has to be a more fair way to divide students up for the fitness test. One that does not put limits on them because of their gender. The qualifications should depend on height, weight and Body Mass Index (BMI), followed by age and then gender instead of purely age and gender. We can not deny the fact that gender must play some role in the fitness test due to biological factors that cannot be controlled, but it should not be the main priority. Height, weight and BMI affect one’s physical capabilities much more than his or her gender does. If this test were for twenty-five year olds, separating them by gender might make a little more sense. But, for adolescents who are all at totally different stages, it is not okay to tell them that because of their gender they must reach a certain standard, and if they don’t, they’ve failed.

There are so many other factors that contribute to one’s fitness and when we disregard those factors and focus solely on gender, it can cause some major issues in one’s feelings of self-worth. The current fitness tests do nothing but make many students feel poorly about themselves. We need to encourage students to exercise, but putting limits on them based on their gender will do nothing but discourage them. It is about time that we stop the sexism from its roots. It is the twenty-first century, we need to make students understand that they are not defined by their gender. The fitness tests must be changed.

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Fitness Evaluation Needs Re-Evaluating