Fit for Europe

9th August 1996 at 01:00
Diane Spencer writes "UK is bottom of the fitness league", (TES, July 26). Unfortunately, the headline is misleading and incompatible with the main theme of the text.

Evidence suggests British schoolchildren are as fit as their European counterparts. Laboratory-based tests first performed in the United States in the 1930s on boys, and in Scandinavia in the 1950s on girls, show similar scores to those obtained at the University of Exeter in the 1990s. As physiological fitness is determined by age, sex, maturation and a genetic component, the number of PE hours in a school is unlikely to be highly correlated with fitness.

The Exeter study showed that there was no significant correlation between children's activity and fitness. While the number of hours spent on PE is an important issue for teachers, confusion should be avoided between fitness (which is a physiological variable), activity (which is behavioural), and the number of hours in PE (a sociological and political variable).

Dr Craig A Williams Chelsea School Research Centre University of Brighton Eastbourne

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