The average fitness level of primary and secondary school students in China has improved slightly after years of decline, but that of college students continues to worsen, according to a national report.
The deterioration of elementary and high school students' physical condition has been tackled thanks to the increasing emphasis placed on physical education on campus, the report found.
These students' physical examination results improved, according to the first Annual Report on Development of Youth Sports.
The report was jointly released by the Youth Development Department of the General Administration of Sport of China and Beijing Sport University on Saturday ahead of the 2015 National Youth "Future Star" Sunshine Sports Games in Yichang, Hubei province.
After analysing results of the previous seven youth fitness surveys conducted by the administration and the Ministry of Education since 1985, the report found that the cardiopulmonary function, strength and stamina of students ages 7 to 18 had seen different degrees of improvement since 2010.
For example, primary and secondary students' lower-limb strength, measured by a standing long jump, has been improving steadily since the worst results were recorded in 2005. The average results for boys and girls increased by 3.9 and 1.2 centimeters respectively in 2013.
Results in the 1,000-meter and 800-meter running for high school boys and girls - reflecting their stamina-improved by 3.03 and 3.58 seconds respectively in 2010 compared with the worst results in 2005.
Guo Jianjun, director of the administration's Youth Department, said on Sunday: "We are excited to see that the perennial deterioration has been contained and improvements have been tested in some disciplines in recent years. Still, the overall fitness level of Chinese students still lags behind (what it was) 20 years ago."
Due to an overemphasis on academic excellence, many Chinese schools replaced physical education classes and extracurricular sports activities with extra tutoring or written tests, resulting in a consistent deterioration in students' health from 1985 to 2005.
Despite improvements seen in the younger age groups, the physical test results for college students in key categories have continued to decline for the past 10 years, the report found.
Gao Feng, vice-principal of Beijing Sport University, said, "Without mandatory PE classes like they have in primary and secondary schools, college students in China take part in sports much less than their peers worldwide, partially due to their unhealthy lifestyles and the lack of an athletic culture in Chinese universities."