Many school children malnourished

Special Correspondent

Physical fitness test programme finds most children failing to make the grade

KOCHI: The majority of children in government and aided schools in Ernakulam district have failed to stand up to the physical fitness test and a substantial number of them are malnourished, a government-initiated study has found.

The Total Physical Fitness Test Programme (TPFP), a State-level programme aimed to evaluate the physical fitness of school children in Classes V to X, found that less than 5 per cent of the children could make the fitness grade. Of the 2.20 lakh children who were given the test, only 9,200 could qualify; the others were below the required fitness level of 80 per cent.

“This is a shocking revelation,” said Jose John, chief district coordinator for TPFP in the district. “The authorities and parents should pay immediate attention and take corrective steps.”

More alarmingly, the body mass index (BMI) of over 12,000 of these children was below 13, which is a dangerously low score and indicates severe malnutrition. The acceptable BMI for adults is in the 18-24 range. According to the World Health Organisation’s expert committee on physical status, children with a BMI value less than 13 are in ‘dangerous health conditions’ and indicates extreme thinness or severe starvation. Many of the children were anaemic, too. “These children need to get clinical attention immediately,” he said.

TPFT tests are designed to assess health-related physical fitness and measure the abdominal strength and endurance, musculo-skeletal flexibility of lower back, upper body strength and cardio-respiratory endurance. These are important for the health of heart, lungs and the circulatory system. The tests, however, do not consider the performance-related components like power, agility and speed.

The five basic components in the TPFP tests are very important for maintaining efficiency at activities of daily living (ADL). An active lifestyle in childhood directly helps to stay healthy in adulthood and old age.

The TPFT tests were administered in November last year in 568 government, aided and vocational schools in the district that come under the General Education Department. The tests were run by a core team of four teachers guided by a physical education teacher in each school. This was the second time that such a test was done. The current tests showed a marked deterioration from the previous year’s tests. In 2008, out of 1.90 lakh children, 11,000 had qualified as fit. The tests also showed that physical efficiency of girls deteriorated as they became older. Again, for both boys and girls, the fitness level was higher in Classes V, VI, and VII than those in Classes VIII, IX and X.

Obesity in schoolchildren was not found to be a big problem in the district.

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