EDUCATIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES SUPPORTING FITNESS FOR LIFE
Central to Fitness for Life is the learning of self-management skills that help students adopt lifelong healthy lifestyles. Concepts and principles derived from educational and psychological theory support the importance of self-management skills in making health behavior changes such as becoming more active, eating well, and managing stress as outlined in Fitness for Life. The theories also support other content in the Fitness for Life program including the content and methods that promote higher order learning objectives and personal autonomy that promotes problem solving and sound decision making.
Read more about the four theories and three models on which Fitness for Life is based: Theoretical Basis for Fitness for Life and K-12 Articulation
K-12 ARTICULATION AND CORRELATIONS TO STANDARDS
Fitness for Life, Seventh Edition, is the high school program that is targeted for grades 9-12. Fitness for Life: Middle School, Second Edition is a program for grades 6-8. The textbooks, that are an essential part of both programs, are available in print and digital formats. Digital Interactive Web Texts (IWT) are available for both programs and allow students to access their text on virtually any type of device that access the Internet (e.g., computer, tablet, phone).
Fitness for Life: Elementary School is a program for grades K-6, uses video to provide student activities as well as conceptual information. Students learn concepts and principle of physical activity and nutrition that provides a foundation for the more advanced programs. The middle school program builds on the elementary program (primarily video based) using a student text, classroom activities, and physical activities tied to the concepts learned in the text and in the classroom. The high school program builds on the content of both the elementary school and middle school programs and focuses on higher order learning and learning self-management skills that can be used to promote lifelong physical activity and other healthy lifestyles throughout life.
All three programs are based on SHAPE America’s physical education content standards and fitness education framework benchmarks. Correlation tables that show how the Fitness for Life programs meet each of the standards and benchmarks are provided in the online Teacher’s Guides for each program. Correlations are also available for several states (physical education standards adopted by states).
- South Carolina correlations: Grades 10-12
- Florida correlations: Grades 9-12
- Virginia correlations: Grade 9
- SHAPE America Fitness Education Framework Alignment: Grades 9-12
- Utah correlations: Core State Standards for PE
EVIDENCE-BASED RESEARCH SUPPORTING FITNESS FOR LIFE PROGRAMS
Does it Work?
The first things most educators, administrators, and parents want to know about an educational program is: Does it work? Over the years an abundance of research has provided evidence that Fitness for Life works! Fitness for Life, Seventh Edition and Fitness for Life Middle School, Second Edition are considered to be conceptual physical education (CPE) programs because they use a textbook, they involve students in classroom sessions, and involve students in physical activity sessions closely tied to the content of the text and classroom sessions. They are sometimes referred to as Fitness Education programs (FE) because they provide information on how to improve health and health-related physical fitness through regular physical activity and sound nutrition. The evidence supporting Fitness for Life, CPE, and Fitness Education is provided under several headings: College Evidence, High School Evidence, Middle School Evidence, Elementary School Evidence, and Knowledge Research.
The first CPE programs were instituted at the college level beginning in the 1960s. These programs provided a model for the high school Fitness for Life programs that originated in the late 1970s. Research at the college level found that CPE programs that use a text, have classroom sessions, and activity sessions tied to the content of the text and classroom material resulted in improved knowledge and attitudes about physical activity as well as promoting increased physical activity after the school years. After reviewing the many research studies at the college level, Sparling (2003, Perspectives in Biological Medicine) concluded that CPE programs can “make important contributions in the primary prevention of inactivity-related chronic diseases and to the general education of college students” (p. 579). For more information about the evidence supporting college programs consult the article by Corbin and Cardinal (2008, Conceptual Physical Education: The Anatomy of an Innovation) listed in the journal articles section. (Link to Journal Articles page)
High School Evidence
The most comprehensive study of the effectiveness of CPE and Fitness for Life type programs was a 20-year longitudinal study called Project Active Teen. Project Active Teen (PAT) began in 1991. Ninth-grade students took a yearlong CPE course. Students used the Fitness for Life textbook and had classroom sessions 1 day a week. They also participated in activity sessions that included fitness, physical activity, and nutrition content from the classroom. Self-assessments were also an important component as were other self-management skills such as goal setting, program planning, and self-monitoring. Traditional physical education activities were integrated with the Fitness for Life activities.
PAT Study Number 1. Fitness for Life reduces inactivity and promotes activity later in high school.
The first PAT study (PAT1) assessed activity patterns of participants as juniors and seniors in high school.
Students who took CPE in the 9th grade were less likely to be inactivity and were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than both a national sample of age-matched peers and local peers who took traditional physical education. Further details are available in the article by Dale, Corbin, & Cuddihy listed in the journal articles section.
PAT Study Number 2. Fitness for Life reduces inactivity and promotes activity in the years after high school.
The second study, PAT2, found similar results. Students who took the Fitness for Life class as 9th graders were less likely to be inactive and more likely to meet national physical activity guidelines than students who took traditional physical education and matched peers from a national sample. Further details are available in the article by Dale & Corbin listed in the journal articles section.
PAT Study Number 3. Fitness for Life reduces inactivity and promotes activity 20+ years after high school.
Twenty years after 9th grade students took a Fitness for Life class, they were found to be less likely to be inactive than a national sample of age-grouped peers (see figure below).
They were also more likely to meet national physical activity guidelines than a national sample of age-matched peers. Questionnaire data showed that adults who took a Fitness for Life class in the 9th grade still remembered content from their class, still used the information, found the class to be useful after graduation, and considered themselves to be well informed about physical fitness and physical activity (see figure below). Further details are available in the article by Kulinna, Corbin, & Yu listed in the journal articles section (link to Kulinna, Corbin, & Yu).
PAT Summary. CPE programs such as Fitness for Life work! They promote lifelong activity and reduce inactivity.
All of the 12 significant differences from the three PAT studies conducted over more than 20 years favored those who took CPE. Kulinna, et al. suggest that Fitness for Life classes “can be a vital part of a total quality physical education program that promotes lifelong physical activity and complements quality traditional physical education programs” (p. 5). Further details are available in the article by Kulinna, Corbin, & Yu listed in the journal articles section (link to Kulinna, Corbin, & Yu).
Other High School Evidence
Rider, Imwold, and Johnson found that students in Florida’s personal fitness course significantly improved their health related fitness knowledge, fitness, and attitudes toward PA and PF. For more information see articles listed in the journal articles section.
Middle School Evidence
A federally funded intervention study of the effectiveness of CPE (Science of Healthy Living) was conducted at the middle school level. Like the PAT studies, middle school youth were followed in the years after completing a middle school CPE program. Students who completed a CPE program in the 6th grade were followed later in middle school. Two year later (as 8th graders) participants in the CPE group had higher out-of-school physical activity levels than the participants taking traditional physical education. They also scored better on knowledge tests. This evidence indicates that like college and high school students, middle school student benefit from participating in CPE. For more information see journal articles section.
Elementary School Evidence
Two research studies of CPE programs using video rather than textbooks have been conducted at the elementary school level. The first study used Fitness for Life exercise videos with imbedded conceptual messages to promote physical activity among elementary school youth. Perceptions of the program (students, teachers, and parents) were positive for all three groups. The second study, part of a federal grant, followed students in a large number of schools who used the Fitness for Life elementary school program (exercise videos with imbedded conceptual messages). Interviews with teachers and wellness coordinators indicated that the program was successful in improving physical activity among students. Further details are available in the article by Corbin, Kulinna, Dean & Reeves listed in the journal articles section.
Secondary school students often lack knowledge and/or hold misconceptions concerning healthy behaviors. Other studies indicate that students with knowledge about fitness and physical activity are more likely to participate in regular activity. The evidence also indicates that CPE programs can improve physical fitness and physical activity knowledge. Based on recent research we know that upper-level students benefit from knowledge gained at lower grade levels. Research also indicates that knowledge is a pathway to motivation for physical activity and, ultimately, to increased out-of-school physical activity. CPE programs promote knowledge and motivation and ultimately out-of-school physical activity later in life. Further details are available in the article by Corbin listed in the journal articles section.
Evidence Based Research Summary
The research described in the sections above make it clear that CPE and FE programs such as Fitness for Life are effective in promoting physical activity after the school years. Equally important, they reduce inactivity later in life and provide knowledge and motivation to be active for a lifetime. They work!