A-PASS! for Aerobic Running

by Justin Ratike | Director of Sales and Marketing | IPICO Sports

   The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition launched the Presidential Youth Fitness Program in September 2012, which replaced the Council’s Youth Fitness Test with FITNESSGRAM®.This was more than just a change of tests; it changed the meaning of the testing. Testing is no longer to be scored by percentile; now it’s about being in the “healthy fitness zone.” Testing now assesses the fitness level of American youth, which is associated with health, rather than performance.


    One of the most important measures of fitness is aerobic capacity, or VO2 max. VO2max measured during a stress test is the measure of aerobic capacity, but it’s impractical to administer stress tests to all American school students. The FITNESSGRAM® provides 3 different, simple, practical, and valid field tests for assessing students’ aerobic capacity, and it can be admin- istered to many students at the same time. Specifically, FITNESSGRAM® assesses aerobic fitness by using either the 1-mile run, the PACER (Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run, commonly known as the beep-test) test, or the 1-mile walk. Offering different tests lets schools choose which one best suits the students and the school’s facilities.


    PACER, a multistage fitness test that’s  basically a shuttle endurance run (15m or 20m) that increases the pace as laps are completed, is now the most popular of the FITNESSGRAM® aerobic tests. PACER a test that can be easily set up in a gymnasium, and since the students run together at a set pace, there is not the issue of outrunning one another, such as when doing timed 1-mile runs in a gym. More important, PACER is a fun and safe test since running is accompanied by music and the pace of the running is controlled so that students don’t run too fast at the beginning of the test. PACER's validity and reliability have been well established. The 1-mile run or walk tests are alternative ways to estimate aerobic fitness that may be preferable in some situations when there are facilities that lend themselves to a measured 1-mile route and the students feel at ease setting their own running or walking pace. While the FITNESSGRAM® offers the three tests to choose from, there are issues with the tests that occur in all testing such as accurate measurement, ease of testing, and testing burden. To address these issues, IPICO offers a technology already widely used in the timed sporting world: radiofrequency identification.


    IPICO Sports, a well-known sport timing company, has developed an RFID system ready to be used in PE classes. IPICO recently launched the A-PASS! (Automatic Physical Activity Scoring System), a tool that scores PACER, the 1-mile run, and 1-mile walk tests. This RFID timing and tracking tool offers the potential for other testing and training applications--it’s only waiting for PE teachers and coaches to accept and use it. With the adoption of FITNESSGRAM® testing as the means of assessing American youth fitness, this is the perfect time to bring A-PASS! into school gyms and onto playing fields. Using RFID technology to assist in FITNESSGRAM® aerobic testing is just the start. As PE teachers and coaches embrace the technology, it will be interesting to watch how RFID technology becomes as ubiquitous in PE classes and sports training as it is in timed sports.


    Dr. Zhu is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. An internationally known scholar in Kinesmetrics (measurement and evaluation in Kinesiology), Dr. Zhu’s primary research interests are in the study and application of new measurement theories (e.g., item response theory) and statistical models/methods (e.g., equating) to the field of Kinesiology, especially in youth physical fitness, the impact of body-mind exercises on health, and physical activity and inactivity and public health. His research has been well supported by external grants, including NIH and RWJF. He is the editor-in-chief of the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, one of the most respected research journals in Kinesionology with more than 80 years of rich history and was the associate editor of Journal of Physical Activity and Health. He is an active fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Kinesiology (limited to 150 scholars), the American College of Sports Medicine, and the Research Consortium of AAHPERD. He was a member of the Scientific Board of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports from 2005–08 and has served on the FITNESSGRAM/ACTIVITYGRAM Advisory Committee since 2002. Dr. Zhu was recently appointed as a panel member on the Committee on Fitness Measures and Health Outcomes in Youth, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.  

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