Physical Strength of Japan Junior High School Girls at Record Low

The Yomiuri Shimbun

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A physical fitness test conducted by the Japan Sports Agency has shown that physical strength among female students at junior high schools in Japan hit the lowest level since the survey started in fiscal 2008. 

The fiscal 2023 test, whose results were released Friday, covered around 990,000 elementary school fifth-grade students and around 920,000 students in the second year of junior high school throughout Japan between April and July. 

While the total score for physical fitness, which is calculated by adding up the scores of eight practical skills portions making up the test, had kept falling since fiscal 2019, the score rose for both male elementary and junior high school students in the latest survey. 

The agency said that physical strength among children is on a recovery track as a whole, mainly reflecting more physical exercise opportunities following the relaxation of COVID-19-related restrictions in Japan. 

According to the fiscal 2023 survey, the total average physical fitness score came to 52.6 for male students in fifth grade, against 52.3 in the previous year’s survey, and fifth-grade female students scored 54.3, unchanged from their fiscal 2022 score. 

The total score stood at 41.2 for male students in their second year of junior high school, up from the previous year’s 40.9, and 47.1 for female students in the same grade, down from 47.3 in the previous survey. 

The survey also asked the students how long they spend on their smartphones, watching television or playing video games outside of studying. 

A total of 17.5% of male fifth-grade respondents answered five hours or more, up from 16.9% in the previous survey, and 13.7% of female fifth graders said the same, up from 12.6%. 

The proportion of second-year junior high school students who gave the same answer came to 17.4% among male students, up from 16.6%, and 16.0% among female students, up from 14.8%. 

The agency found correlation between the number of hours spent on such devices and physical fitness. The survey showed that the physical fitness score fell below the nationwide average for those with screen time of three hours or more. The score was worse for children with screen time of at least four hours and further worse for those spending at least five hours. 

“While (the result) can’t be helped to some degree, given the changes in society, efforts to encourage (children) to think on their own about an appropriate relationship between their own health and information media will be important,” an agency official said. 

The survey also showed that the proportion of those who eat breakfast every day fell for both male and female fifth graders and second-year junior high school students. 

The agency cautioned that children’s healthy life will be harmed should such a trend continue.