What does “health” and “fitness” mean to you? Is it simply based off of your weight and how much you can lift? What does endurance have to do with it? What about flexibility?

These are the questions that Jeannie Orend and her fellow educators at Seneca Valley Senior High School in Harmony, Pennsylvania, are trying to answer for their students.

“Our goal, as a department, is to increase [the students’] awareness,” Orend says, and to help them get a better idea of what “healthy” is, explaining that, “there are different aspects of health.”

To achieve this, Orend and her department have created a fitness screening that they will use to test every student once each year. This program will test the students on four different health-related components: muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, upper-body muscular strength and flexibility.

To measure these different components, the students will have a 1-minute curl-up test, a 1-mile walk/jog test, a 1-minute push-up test, and a sit and reach test.

Each student from grade seven to 12 will participate in each of these tests one time each year. The results will then be posted on the school’s website portal for the students and their parents to see and track progress over the years.

“We’re just trying to provide some sort of idea to students and parents as far as where they stand [health-wise],” Orend explains.

By doing these tests yearly and tracking the students results, Orend says that this gives the students and parents actual data that they can look at, which will allow the students to grow and improve their health on an individual level, and allow them to take more charge of their health.

Overall, Orend explains that, “technology has made it so hard to keep students active. It’s been a huge challenge.”

“Physical activity, the desire to move, has decreased,” Orend adds. “Students used to play a lot. You don’t see kids playing as much anymore.”

Therefore, Orend and her team are trying to utilize these screenings to show students the importance of being active.

Despite a potential decrease in physical activity, however, Orend says that students are receiving these screenings positively. Although some students seemed resistant at first, just for the simple fact that these screenings are “testing” them, Orend and her team have been trying to help the students to not be afraid of the screenings by explaining that they are just trying to gage where they are at physically.

With this, Orend says that the students are interested in seeing where they stand in comparison to each other, as well as the national average. The younger students, especially, seem interested in their results since they have a longer time to track their progress over the years, compared to the older students with only a few years of school left.

Overall, Orend says that most students are doing well with these screenings.

“I’m actually impressed in some of the areas,” she says. “Some of them aren’t doing as bad as we thought.”

Orend says that she and her team are trying to get creative with these tests in order to keep the students motivated to do the best they can.

In addition to the screenings performed in school, the Physical Education Department also sent out a letter to all parents explaining the program, along with activities that families can encourage their students to do to improve their scores, such as planking, biking, walking, and yoga.

With the start of this program, Orend and the Physical Education Department are eager to see how their students will progress in these screenings throughout the years, and hope to see a positive impact on their students’ lives.

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