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‘Sound Body’ helping LA Unified students pass state fitness tests

Mike Szymanski | July 15, 2015

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A charitable physical education program that is in nearly 100 LAUSD middle and high schools has led to dramatic increases in student performances in state fitness tests, according to a UCLA study released today.

The UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind program offers grants for commercial-grade fitness equipment to under-resourced schools and offers a curriculum that includes nutrition education, exercise and physical education.

The use of the program has produced remarkable increases in passing rates of the state Fitnessgram test. Before the program was used, schools showed a 20 percent pass rate, but after using the equipment and program for eight weeks, the pass rate jumped to an average of 60 percent.

At the Alliance Alice M. Baxter College-Ready High School, a public charter school in San Pedro, the program resulted in 82 percent of students passing the Fitnessgram test, compared with 37 percent of an earlier group.

At East Valley High School, principal Carrie Allen said, “It’s hard to give a number of the people that will be impacted going forward. It’s not just education, but it involves nutrition and a decline in obesity.”

Nearly one-fourth of the students under the age of 18 in Los Angeles County are considered obese and another 19 percent are considered overweight as measured by their body mass index, according to the study.

“I was not expecting that in such a short time one could see such a big difference in the kids’ fitness performance,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a professor of urban planning and associate dean in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs who published the study in the Journal of Education and Training Studies, said in a press release from UCLA Health. “A curriculum such as this could go a long way toward motivating children to be more active and fighting obesity, particularly in low-income communities where such efforts are most needed.”

Loukaitou-Sideris and her team of UCLA graduate students followed 640 seventh to 10th graders attending five inner-city Los Angeles schools during the academic year 2012-2013. The schools were New Open World Academy, Los Angeles High School of the Arts, UCLA Community School, Ambassador School of Global Leadership and the School for the Visual Arts and Humanities.

The Sound Body Sound Mind Foundation was created by philanthropists Cindy and Bill Simon in 1999 and became part of UCLA Health this year. Using state-of-the-art fitness equipment, the curriculum includes 30 lesson plans focused on mastering basic physical tasks. All of the activities are designed for small spaces, so they don’t require gyms, which many inner-city schools don’t have.

East Valley student Sara Bandoval, quoted in a UCLA videos about the program, said, “I was kind of like overweight and had bullying and all that and kind of like day by day I was watching a difference in my body. I feel comfortable in my own skin.”


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