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Introduction to the Supplement–Special Issue: The Hungarian National Youth Fitness Study.

Ensuring the health and education of children is one of the most important objectives in modern society. This is because the youth of today represent our future. The worldwide increase in the prevalence of obesity directly threatens this potential, so the promotion of health and fitness has become a matter of considerable public health and societal interest. The Cooper Institute has played a key role in building and supporting educational tools to promote health-related fitness in youth. The key program in this effort has been the FITNESSGRAMĀ® youth fitness assessment system. Developed in 1982, the Fitnessgram program has helped to shift the focus to health-related fitness assessments (as opposed to the skill-related fitness paradigm that dominated the 20th century). A key, defining feature of the Fitnessgram program is the use of criterion-referenced standards that document how much fitness is needed for health. The recent standards for aerobic fitness and body composition have been empirically developed using nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and provide defensible age- and gender-specific standards for the Fitnessgram program. These standards are used within the software to enable schools to print personalized health-related fitness reports that provide feedback to youth similar to academic reports. Aggregated reports by school, district, and state also have broad utility for curriculum modification, policy evaluation, and public health surveillance. These features have contributed to the broad adoption of the Fitnessgram in school physical education programs across the United States.