The bleep test

Are fitness tests for the best...
06 August 2019


a group of runners on a track


Physical Education. Some of us loved it at school, some of us didn’t. But what’s the best way to encourage fitness amongst school children? One study published in the journal Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy is questioning the beneficial impact of a specific test called the bleep test. Matthew Hall took us through or scientific paces...

Adam - This fitness pacer test, also known as the bleep test, is a multistage aerobic test, that gets more difficult as it continues. The running speed starts off slowly, but gets faster after you hear this sound.


Adam - The aim is to run 20 meters before the next bleep goes off. On your mark. Get ready. Start


Matt - Fitness tests in P.E. classes are staple of physical education world wide. This process sets out to test your fitness but amongst kids it stands as the ultimate assessment of how cool you were during your adolescent life.


Matt - Ignoring popularity the actual point of these tests is to introduce an active lifestyle to kids and hopefully help them improve their less developed areas of fitness.


Matt - But despite the numerous types of fitness classes employed in schools now there's been a decline in overall physical fitness.


Matt - Because of these dips, fitness classes are now a controversial topic in the health and fitness world which is causing two arguments within school education.


Matt - Aw drats. I'm out Coach. Go ahead, shut it down. As I was trying to say there is a huge deal of controversy with these fitness tests. There are health organisations and academics that endorse their use in schools, because they provide such great surveillance information for physical fitness levels of youth across the globe. However, there is a second camp of academics that argue the tests lack validity are misused and are potentially harmful to the students participating, creating negative experiences toward physical education which could ultimately lead children to participate less in PE, and then become less active over all.

To get to the bottom of this, a study published in The Journal of Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy looked at 273 students in America, aged 11 to 14, who participated in varying fitness tests. These included the pacer, push ups, crunches, and a test to sit and reach for your toes. The team of researchers from the Taylor and Francis group looked at the associated attitudes and emotions of the students after participating in each test. To accurately record the attitudes of the students, a five point scale ranging from agree to strongly disagree was used, combined with a questionnaire that focused on the students enjoyment, anger, and boredom towards PE.

With going through all the responses of the students, the team found that the fitness tests actually have little to no impact on whether students are enjoying P.E. class, and with a sex distribution of 52 percent male 48 percent female, the team found that certain tests left varying impressions between the two sexes. Specifically, improved performances over time in the pacer test was more important amongst teenage boys, but teenage girls didn't seem to care if they did better. Adding to that, improved performance in the sit and reach test was reported as being more important to teenage girls, while the guys didn't really care if they improved.

The major discussion now is to see how the time used to conduct these fitness tests can be better integrated into more successful and influential healthy living techniques for teenagers. One potential solution is to introduce a more refined fitness education curriculum. Even if we find a solution to fill in the educational gaps, there is still this common factor of thought to deal with. Everyone hates crunches. Between both the boys and girls in the study, the crunches test caused, and I quote; “higher rates of anger toward P.E.”. So even if we see a more rigorous physical education program in the future we will still be able to confidently conclude together that sit-ups are, in fact, the worst.


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