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Pupils' Physical Fitness Below Par, Worsens With Age,

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Only 43 percent of more than four million students tested over the past two years met the basic standards of physical fitness, according to a nationwide study released recently.

And in many of the test exercises, performance worsened among those above age 14, the study found.

Sponsored by the Amateur Athletic Union (aau) and Nabisco Brands, the study is based on the performance of students ranging in age from 6 to 17. The performance figures were drawn from an analysis of exercise tests conducted from 1979 to 1981 under the auspices of the Nabisco-aau Physical Fitness Program.

Many Participants

More than 10,000 schools participate in the program, which began in 1943, according to the aau

The performance standards are "meant to be attainable by the average healthy youngster in each age and sex group," according to a summary of the study.

"Ideally, performance should continue to improve after age 14, but in some categories this does not occur," said Wynn F. Updyke, associate dean for graduate studies at Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Fitness and Recreation and chief investigator for the study.

For example, according to the performance standards, the average 12-year-old girl can do 43 modified pushups in two minutes. By the time she is 14 years old, the average girl can do only 38 modified pushups in two minutes. Boys' performance worsened slightly in the 100-yard sprint, too; 14-year-olds could run that distance at an average speed of 12.6 seconds, while 17-year-olds covered it in 12.8 seconds.

But in some categories, students improved with age. Fourteen-year-old boys, for example, could perform the "shuttle run" in 10.1 seconds. By the time they were 17, their average time had dropped to 9.4 seconds.

Mr. Updyke attributed the drop in performance levels to "the failure of many schools to have compulsory gym and physical-education classes after the eighth grade," according to a summary of the study.--S.W.

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