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The development of our lower division core class requirements had two primary goals: that each student 1) focus on his/her own goals and related efforts to perform (moving as a way of knowing and understanding movement) and 2) begin to understand the importance of discipline-based knowledge in making decisions related to the goal of enhancing personal performance. Relative to these goals, there was also an inclusion of a body composition standard for graduation as currently required in the KIN 241 class.
Over the years, the profession has increased its knowledge and understanding about the significance of body composition as it relates to health and fitness. The information below represents our current understanding and interpretation.
To properly implement the required standards for fitness, a standardized and consistent protocol for testing and interpretation of results is necessary. To ensure equity and an unbiased evaluation, the tests utilized must account for differences in age, cultural background and ethnicity. The tests must have been validated in populations similar in ethnicity and age to our students and normative values should also be representative. Failure to control for these factors will likely place some students at a disadvantage when attempting to meet the standards. Due to our diverse student population, finding a single measure, which has been validated in numerous populations is challenging. It is unfortunate that many of the commonly utilized equations to determine fitness, as well as the norms developed to determine our standards, fail to account for these potential confounding factors.
It is well accepted that the density of fat free mass can vary by ethnicity . Additionally, there is substantial error introduced by the predictive nature of these measures and an absence of validation studies of these measures in multiethnic cohorts. Low reliability and high variability plague the field tests we presently use to assess body composition, with the body composition tests requiring substantial training for proper administration. With regards to body composition, there is no question that the inter-instructor variability is large and unacceptable if the result is to be used as a standard for graduation. The data obtained for body composition, when administered by qualified personnel, is best used as advisory and to reflect relative changes rather than absolute values.
With respect to body composition, the current standard only identifies some of those at risk for health problems due to abnormal body composition values. While students can fail the body composition portion for excessive amounts of body fat, those students who are at risk due to low levels of body fat (those with exercise induced amenorrhea or hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction induced by eating disorders) do not fail this test. Our emphasis on only one end of the spectrum fails to educate our students in the health risks associated with very low levels of body fat.
In addition to the above factors, we need to consider the substantial genetic variation between individuals. Genetic influences are important determinants of body composition and obesity [2-5], fitness  metabolic rate, energy cost of physical activity and the ability to respond to exercise and weight loss strategies that influence energy balance . Information from the Heritage study underscores the strong genetic determination of both fitness and body composition, and the influence of genetics on the ability to alter these parameters. When presented with the same exercise stimulus, identical twins exhibit similar adaptations, with some twin pairs classified as non-responders (no change in fitness or body composition) after 12 weeks of vigorous exercise training [8, 9]. As the study of the genetic influences on the adaptation to exercise training progresses, we are learning that variations in the physiologic adaptations to an exercise regimen are most likely due to the influences of variants in a variety of genes.
Obviously, holding a student who is not able to modulate body composition due to genetically determined factors to a standard developed for all students represents a challenge to the equity of these tests. A final factor to consider given our diverse student population is the cultural bias as reflected by the foods and environment present in families of different ethnicities. The literature suggests that at least 55% of the variance in body fatness can be attributed to a combination of genetic (25-40%) and cultural (30%) factors [2, 10].
For our department to continue to impose a graduation standard on a student whose body composition can be a factor of genetics and 20 plus years of influence by their cultural and familial norms seems ill-advised. Given what we now know and recognizing that a body composition standard is not the best indication of achievement of our lower division core goals, we as a faculty agreed to eliminate this standard, effective immediately.
We will continue to pursue the goals of a lower division core, in a manner that is rooted in the latest information and that is considerate of the plurality of movement possibilities that can be experienced by our students. It has been brought forth in the literature to maintain optimal health, one must be in a healthy range for body fat and one must incorporate sufficient regular physical activity. It is also clear that there is the need to appreciate the psychological variables integral to maintaining one’s health, in particular, motivation. With these factors in mind, the Kinesiology Department will continue evaluating the curriculum to incorporate changes that promote health and teach our students how to better serve the public, in need of our knowledge and expertise.
Emphasis will be placed on the educational experience to be gained from participating in fitness testing and teaching students how to interpret results and apply solutions.
In place of the current body composition standard, students will:
1. Heyward, V.H., Evaluation of body composition. Current issues. Sports Med, 1996. 22(3): p. 146-56.
2. Bouchard, C., et al., Inheritance of the amount and distribution of human body fat. Int J Obes, 1988. 12(3): p. 205-15.
3. Bouchard, C., Genetic factors in the regulation of adipose tissue distribution. Acta Med Scand Suppl, 1988. 723: p. 135-41.
4. Bouchard, C. and L. Perusse, Heredity and body fat. Annu Rev Nutr, 1988. 8: p. 259-77.
5. Sorensen, T.I., C. Holst, and A.J. Stunkard, Adoption study of environmental modifications of the genetic influences on obesity. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord, 1998. 22(1): p. 73-81.
6. Bouchard, C., et al., Aerobic performance in brothers, dizygotic and monozygotic twins. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1986. 18(6): p. 639-46.
7. Bouchard, C. and A. Tremblay, Genetic influences on the response of body fat and fat distribution to positive and negative energy balances in human identical twins. J Nutr, 1997. 127(5 Suppl): p. 943S-947S.
8. Bouchard, C., et al., The response to long-term overfeeding in identical twins. N Engl J Med, 1990. 322(21): p. 1477-82.
9. Bouchard, C. and A. Tremblay, Genetic effects in human energy expenditure components. Int J Obes, 1990. 14 Suppl 1: p. 49-55; discussion 55-8.
10. Bouchard, C., Genetics of human obesity: recent results from linkage studies. J Nutr, 1997. 127(9): p. 1887S-1890S.
Department of Kinesiology, Redwood Hall, 18111 Nordhoff St, Northridge CA 91330-8287 / Phone: 818-677-3205 / Fax: 818-677-3207
© 2006 CSU Northridge