Traditional fitness testing in PE is not for me! But is there another way?

By Nathan Parkin PhysiGames


Imagine yourself as a Year 7 maths teacher, eager to engage your students in a lesson that challenges their skills and understanding. You decide on a unique but strange approach. Students are asked to stand at the front of the room and solve equations one after another. When a student completes a second incorrect answer they move back to their desk, sit down and passively eyeballing the remaining students. Eventually there is only one student remaining. PE teachers, does this sound familiar?

The elimination nature and controlling style of traditional fitness tests such as the Bleep test are no doubt contributors to students fear of failure in the PE setting (Hernández, Moreno-Murcia, & Espín, 2020, Teachers’ interpersonal styles and fear of failure from the perspective of physical education students”). So, our question is, what if we flipped the script? What if we shifted the focus to something deeper by offering students some autonomy; a chance to achieve positive physical outcomes through multi-stage running, while emphasising the importance of fitness and cardiovascular health.

Elimination games, we know there is no educative purpose

We know that practice and time on task in PE has a significant impact on student engagement and attainment levels. Elimination games in any PE context serve little educational purpose as they lead to significant periods of non-participation and reduced learning, driven by students’ varying levels of attainment and motivation. Many high achieving athletic students who are exposed to traditional fitness tests (e.g. bleep, yoyo, bronco or 2km time trials) at club or academy level, have their results used purely as baseline testing for their athletic development. So, with this understanding and the growing research base, we must reassess the relevance of elimination styled fitness testing for students in school PE settings.

The shift from fitness testing to fitness education

Qualitative research from Monash University in Australia concludes that schools must consider if their own fitness education curriculum can be realigned to be more inclusive, safe, educational and meaningful (Alfrey, 2020, “Why it’s time to reconsider fitness testing in health and physical education”). With this in mind, what if there was a cavoite? The development of something that has elements of multi-stage running, but with teaching and learning opportunities designed to empower, engage and motivate students in their learning.

In some way, we can’t help but wonder if the real possibilities of finding educative purpose from multi-stage running have always actually been there. Perhaps it has been the way we as teachers traditionally have presented it to our students, where learning opportunities were so often missed. There is no doubt that outstanding PE teachers have acknowledged these issues and either omitted fitness styled lessons from their curriculum or modified tests like the bleep test with different distances, team challenges. But what if there was a resource that did this for you and flipped the focus from fitness testing to fitness education whilst engaging students? Our answer to this question is, it’s called Defeat the Beat. 

Defeat the Beat: inclusive cardio gamified to empower, motivate, and engage

Defeat the Beat is an inclusive and engaging fitness game accessed via our online platform. Players or teams accumulate points by running back and forth between the chime line (start line) and scoring zones. One similarity to traditional testing is that the time between each interval shortens. At this point similarities stop, as players have full agency over the distance they choose to run, whether they are playing our Open Scoring Mode or have selected or created their own Challenge Card. Additionally, players can simply take a “chime out” knowing they can re-enter into the game at the next interval, continuing to accumulate points for themselves or a team. Players are also accompanied by upbeat music! Where teachers have the option to use our game videos (in addition to the audio) which provide pacing support for players.

In Defeat the Beat, there is scope for teacher creativity in their planning. With four game modes each with different game lengths, teachers can choose to play in Open Scoring Mode or use our Challenges Cards. Our early adopting schools have used Defeat the Beat across primary and secondary settings, with students playing individually, as teams or creating class v class competitions, all the while ensuring inclusivity and engagement are the key focus. A primary health and PE teacher in Tasmania, Australia captures this well, saying our game is “an inclusive activity that caters for all fitness levels. It can be used for goal setting, teamwork and building cardiovascular endurance fitness”.

Get creative and unleash your cross-curricular opportunities (your head of Maths is going love this)

Perhaps as a PE teacher your moral compass is still not sold on something sceptics might term as a “glorified bleep test”. If that is the case, we encourage you to think about the educative purpose that Defeat the Beat provides. There are numerous opportunities for cross-curricular links made to subjects such as Maths, English and Science. Students can not only improve their understanding of cardiovascular fitness, but learning can build on the knowledge and skills from other subject areas. Whether it is a Year 4 class exploring the concepts of run-pacing and effort through creating their own Challenge Cards and using multiplication tables to tally endurance scores; or a Year 10 GSCE class using HR monitors to graph data in relation to heart rate response. In both examples you can see connections that have true educative purpose to build on cross-curricular opportunities.


We know the landscape of PE is shifting towards a lifelong wellness approach, a welcome shift from the sports-centric model of the 90’s and 2000’s. Teachers are re-evaluating traditional practices like fitness testing and elimination games, considering their impact on student learning and engagement. It is resources like Defeat the Beat that offer valuable opportunities to ‘bridge-the-gap’ between best practice and fitness education, suggesting that fitness education and multi-stage running remains relevant in modern PE curriculums. Furthermore, by embracing innovative approaches like Defeat the Beat, PE educators not only equip students with essential fitness knowledge but also lay the groundwork for lifelong wellness habits, fostering a generation empowered to prioritise their physical health beyond the classroom.

Our offer

We thank the PE Scholar team for their invaluable support and for providing us with the opportunity to share our insights on the relevance of fitness education in modern PE settings. As a new platform that can be used by PE teachers, we are excited for what Defeat the Beat represents.

So, what is our offer? Well, we are looking for early adopters! We are offering the first 5 educators who sign up to our mailing list a complimentary (free) 12-month subscription to Defeat the Beat for their school. By becoming an early adopter of Defeat the Beat, you will not only benefit from using our resource but can contribute to our ongoing efforts in gathering feedback and evidence in UK schools.

Use this link to sign up today!

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