Saturday, May 19, 2012

Longing for the Return of the CANADA FITNESS TEST

The CANADA FITNESS TEST. If you were a kid in the '80's you know exactly what I'm talkin' 'bout.
The words either put a nostalgic smile on your face or send a shiver down your spine. In the States, the President's Fitness Challenge would be very similar.

Back in the '70's and '80's, the Canadian Government deemed childhood fitness poor (is anything different now?), and after a run of "Participaction", created the "CANADA FITNESS TEST". The program ran from 1970-1992, with Hal and Joanne encouraging us with their "Bodybreak".

The test (here), was administered to unwitting Canadian students in Grades 3-8 and involved 6 gruelling, peer-revealing tests and an endurance run. They were:

  1. Push-Ups
  2. Shuttle Run
  3. Partial Curl-Ups
  4. Standing Long Jump
  5. 50 m Run (about 150 ft. for the Americans)
  6. Flexed Arm Hang
  7. An Endurance Run of between 1500-2300 m. depending on how old you were.
Your ability was scored on a table, assessed on a standardized grid, and you were awarded an achievement crest based on how well you did overall. 

These levels were:

  • Award of EXCELLENCE
  • GOLD
  • Participation Pin

No matter how badly you did, everyone received a participation pin, in addition to their crest.
The benefit of the program was a national standard to shoot for, as well as encouraging all students to pursue some degree of physical activity. 
The flaw, in hindsight, was to potentially embarrass or humiliate kids who were not able to meet the standards. 

I understand the reasons behind discontinuing the program (costs, publicly embarrassing some kids), but I think the overall concept was sound. With this program, there was a national standard for all schools, and a goal to aim for. The removal of the program allowed standardized physical activity in schools to wither away in Canada.

I know that, at least in Ontario, where I, and my kids live, the daily requirements for activity are supposed  to be 20 minutes EVERY DAY (Ontario Government's statement), but this rarely actually occurs. There is now NO end assessment, and if a kid wants to just stand around, they do. We wouldn't want to make them feel bad, right?

I know this is a bit of a rant, but as a physician, childhood obesity is a big concern of mine. It very clearly leads to an increased risk of Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke, and lack of physical activity in childhood is strongly associated with lack of activity as an adult. The amount of time kids spend in front of a screen is upwards of SIX HOURS PER DAY (!) (Sun News, April 2011); time which, when we were kids, was at least time spent running dangerously in the streets, without helmets, supervision, and cushy padding under the jungle gym.


Let me know what you think! Should we bring back the CANADA FITNESS TEST?


  1. I couldn't agree more! As I recall - I was not a sporty kid - it didn't kill me!!!

  2. thanks for posting the fitness test pdf. I've been searching for this as I want to shame my kids with how much fitter their 50 year old mom is, haha! I wish Particpaction fitness tests would come back to Canadian schools. I think most kids were into it. I was hopeless at sports and last picked on any team thanks to glasses, but I still got a gold medal each year. :)

  3. Do you have a link to the times for the flexed arm hang?

    1. Unfortunately no!
      It was 35+ years ago - No internet back then. :(