The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Healthy Fitness Zone Standards

Aerobic Capacity and Body Composition


FITNESSGRAM is unique (and widely accepted) because fitness assessments are evaluated using criterion referenced standards. An advantage of criterion referenced standards (over percentile norms) is that they are based on how fit children and youth need to be for good health. The previous criterion-referenced standards were based on the best available research at the time they were developed. They have been well supported in the scientific literature but some inconsistencies in aerobic capacity and body composition became apparent in several large district and state reports. Additionally, nationally representative data on fitness and clinical risk in children National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is now available.

The new analyses using NHANES data demonstrate that both fitness and fatness have stronger influences on health than previously suggested. The new standards reflect levels of fitness and fatness that provide protection against health risks associated with excess body fatness or inadequate fitness. The new standards have also resolved the previously mentioned inconsistencies with the previous standards.

The documents available to the right include the new standards tables, a summary of the changes for aerobic capacity and body composition, a powerpoint presentation describing the changes and an FAQ document with more specific information.

Questions regarding information in these documents may be directed to

More detailed scientific information regarding the development process and procedures will be published in a supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.