Are Asian-American kids the most fit in California? They are if you exclude Filipinos and Pacific Islanders. According to Kidsdata.org, the percentage of Asian-American 7th and 9th graders in 2008 who meet all fitness standards is greater than any other California ethnic group including whites. Physical fitness is measured through the California Physical Fitness Test, which looks for passing a minimum in the areas of upper body strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, and trunk strength. Asian-American 5th graders slightly trail white 5th graders, but as you can see, this advantage is later lost by 7th grade. Filipino-American kids are less fit than whites, and less than 30% of Pacific Islander 9th graders are considered overall fit. Healthy weight data shows similar patterns.
Ignoring the debate whether Filipinos are Asians, it doesn’t seem surprising that Filipino-American kids are less fit. Filipino food, while delicious (I’m biased of course) is not exactly the healthiest, and Filipinos are said to be the most sedentary of Asian-Americans. I am not really sure what is happening with Pacific islanders. I suspect that a partial cause of these health statistics is a correlation between income levels and health, but Filipinos again complicate this by having a high household income, mainly because there are often more wage earners in a Filipino household (three in my household as an example).
I find it highly ironic that given stereotypes of Asian-American kids not being athletic, they are the fittest, and African-Americans, stereotyped to be athletes, are among the least fit. These stats are also damning with regards to physical education and youth sports. I’m not saying that there are no benefits from youth sports (I’ve coached for a number of years). But given that fact only 35.6% of all California 9th graders can pass the fitness minimums, the large amounts of money spent on youth sports facilities, and how few actually make it to elite levels, there needs to be a better return on fitness for all children.
h/t to The Wife who found these stats in the Mercury News.