Fitness test shows Czech children’s endurance deteriorating

Sit-ups, push-ups, long jump and beep test run — these athletic disciplines were used by the Czech School Inspectorate to measure the physical fitness of schoolchildren across the country. Compared to the same tests carried out 30 years ago, the results have shown a dramatic drop in children’s endurance.

Ilustrative photo: Šárka Mattová,  Czech Radio

Tests to ascertain the physical fitness level of Czech schoolchildren were carried out last autumn among pupils from 3rd and 7th grades of primary schools, and among students in the 2nd year of secondary schools.

The results showed that compared to their peers from other countries, Czech children do quite well in the long jump discipline. However, when it came the 20 metre shuttle run test, which is commonly used to measure maximum running aerobic fitness, they performed significantly worse than their peers abroad.

However, children’s endurance has also dramatically declined when compared to that of the same age group 30 years ago. Interestingly in the long jump and sit-ups, the children’s results have remained more or less unchanged for decades.

Based on the results, researchers divided the children into three categories, with the worst, critical level, posing serious health risks, says Central School Inspector Tomáš Zatloukal.

Tomáš Zatloukal | Photo: Kateřina Cibulka,  Czech Radio

“A disturbing finding is that we have a significant proportion of students who are in the critical zone in several of those tests. The older they get, the worse the results are and overall, girls scored worse than boys did.”

The survey suggests that nearly 70 percent of secondary school students finished in the last, critical group.

Another outcome of the testing is that just like with education, physical fitness largely depends on the children’s family background. While children from the Karlovy Vary or Ústí nad Labem regions, which have the highest number of socially disadvantaged families, scored the worst, children in Prague and the Zlín region finished in the top spots.

It also turns out that the quality of physical education is affected by whether it is taught by a teacher with a proper level of training. This is something the Ministry of Education would like to focus on in the future, says the head of the department, Vladimír Balaš:

Vladimír Balaš | Photo: René Volfík,

“There are only two physical education lessons a week, but children should be motivated to get involved in physical activities also during breaks and on other occasions.  To some extent this also concerns the way they get to school.

“Another important thing, of course, is the availability of sports facilities after school. I think that has been a long-term problem, although it has been getting slightly better.”

Teachers and school inspectors also recommend that physical activity elements be integrated into other subjects in addition to physical education and the ministry was asked to better promote sports activities for children and young people in their free time. To see whether these measures are effective, the same fitness tests are to be carried out in Czech schools every four years.

Authors: Eva Mikulka Šelepová , Ruth Fraňková
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