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Local kids fare poorly on physical fitness tests

Date Posted: 2009-02-04

Okinawa’s elementary and junior high school students—at least in fifth grade and the second year of junior high school—are far from physically fit.

That’s the finding of a new Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology exam conducted last April through July. The battery of eight tests was administered to 11-year-olds in elementary school fifth grade, and to 14-year-olds in junior high school second level. For Okinawa kids, it was a dismal showing; rankings of 31st to 38th place finishes among Japan’s 47 prefectures.

Okinawa children are not even at the average physical fitness power, the Ministry concluded, although handball results boosted results for boys. Marathon sport testing, a 1,500 meter run, put Okinawa’s junior high school boys in 44th place and girls 46th place of the 47 prefectures. The 20 meter run wasn’t much better, with Okinawan boys finishing 45th and girls 46th.

The younger children fared better than those in junior high school. The test results showed 11-year-old boys overall in 31st place with 53.7 points, just below the nationwide average 54.18. The girls were close, too, 53.9 points compared with the national average 54.8 points, leaving them in 33rd place.

Why are Okinawan youth less fit? The Chairman of the Board of Education says “we have to struggle with children’s physical fitness, getting cooperation with schools, homes, social worlds and the community all working with the government.” He says “”everybody must do more about promoting physical fitness.” The Ministry of Education says “we must return to the lesson of exercising more than one hour each day, so power can be brought back.”

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