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Impact Story

SC Department of Health and Environmental Control: FitnessGram

Improving the Fitness of South Carolina’s Students

About the Organization

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) is charged with promoting and protecting the health of the public in South Carolina. This project represents a collaborative effort between SC DHEC, the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE), and Children’s Physical Activity Research Group (CPARG) at the University of South Carolina (UofSC).

About the Grant

In 2014, a pilot was conducted to use the web-based FitnessGram system in six South Carolina school districts in order to demonstrate the feasibility of implementing a statewide web-based fitness tracking system. The following school year the project expanded to allow any school district in the state to participate. Training, technical assistance, and fitness testing equipment are provided to these districts. FitnessGram tests are administered by physical education teachers to South Carolina public school students in grades 2, 5, 8, and high school  to assesses components of fitness that are known to be related to health outcomes in children and youth. 

Why It Was Funded

Before this project, there was no statewide technological capability to capture and report student health-related fitness data from a local school level to a state level. Such capability enables South Carolina to aggregate student fitness information reports at the state, county, district, and school level. This information helps inform K-12 curricular, policy and funding decisions related to providing students with quality physical education programs that support students' health-related fitness.

Statewide FitnessGram data demonstrates that just 50 percent of South Carolina students are in the Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) for cardiorespiratory fitness, with students in poverty even more likely to not be in the HFZ for cardiorespiratory fitness.

Project Results

Currently, 72 of 81 school districts across the state actively participate in submitting their FitnessGram data into the statewide system. As of the 2017-18 school year, the following percentages of South Carolina students scored in the Healthy Fitness Zone on the tests of the specified fitness components:

  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness (PACER or mile run): 50 percent
  • Upper Body Strength (push-ups): 57 percent
  • Abdominal Strength and Endurance (curl-ups): 68 percent
  • Trunk Extensor Strength and Endurance (trunk lift): 77 percent
  • Flexibility (back-saver sit and reach right and left): 72 percent

The percentage of students achieving the Healthy Fitness Zone tended to decline with increasing age, and the percentage of students meeting the Healthy Fitness Zone standard for all test items was long among students in poverty as compared to students not in poverty. 

Ongoing Support

The FitnessGram project will continue with support from the Foundation through the 2022 – 23 school year. This next phase of the project will allow for continued data analysis, as well as targeted technical assistance and professional development for several school districts in order to increase time for physical activity during the school day, increase intensity of physical activity opportunities and improve the quality of physical education.