Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What happened to President Kennedy’s Physical Fitness Program?

The Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation put out a new report today stating that obesity rates have increased by 28%. It also indicated that 84% of parents felt that their children were at a healthy weight! There are many reasons beyond health problems that contribute to an obese nation: technology, lack of exercise, less time, more stress, less vacations, and an abundance of uncertainty are just a few. In addition, many of the public schools have cut physical fitness programs due to lack of federal and state funding.

We’ve become a physically inactive society, where the only exercise that we get is clicking on a keyboard or the remote control of our TV sets! Think about it, when we go to the supermarket, movies, or shopping, we try desperately to get the closest parking spot to the entrance! Our children don’t get any exercise either. They sit around the house talking on the phone, texting, watching television, or playing computer games, instead of playing outdoors.

During the 60’s when I was in elementary school, President Kennedy took over a federal physical fitness program that was started and failed by Eisenhower, and he reorganized a new council to oversee and market a new physical fitness program for all Americans. During 1961-1962 school years, the president developed a physical fitness pilot project for the schools. A core group of almost a quarter of a million schoolchildren took part in the Council-sponsored pilot projects in six states. The physical fitness program was structured into the daily curriculum of school study.

I was fortunate to be a part of this pilot project. I was in the 6th grade when this program was implemented. I remember feeling pride that I was part of a program that our president designed and was paying close attention to. We were trained to be athletic by running, doing sit-ups, climbing ropes (those were hard), doing push-ups, and strengthening our muscles by doing multiple stretches for all muscle groups.

At the end of the pilot project year, we took a physical fitness test and half again as many students passed a physical fitness test as had a year earlier. Furthermore, there was a general improvement of physical education programs around the country. Students that passed the test were given a badge that had an eagle emblem and the words, “Presidential Physical Fitness Award.” For those of us that received this emblem, we had such pride in being part of the project and being physical fit. It also set a foundation on how to live healthy for our future.

I say bring back the president’s council on physical fitness! Let children have pride being part of something larger than their Wii box, or 40” television sets!


  1. All my badges were stolen out of my locker at school during my Sophmore year. Do you happen to know who I may contact to see if I may be able to get them replaced?

    Blessings, MrsTH

  2. I totally agree with this! How can we get it back in schools? Writing our congressmen? It would be a wonderful thing for kids today!

  3. Hello,

    This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know You definitely put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

    Willium Mark

    Fitness Training program

  4. yeah, we were taking thru the 60s and at least to 1973.i was an eigth-grader then and that was the last one I remember. WE weren't allowed to use calculators for math either, now they've become mandatory school supplies. Read the book "Dumbing Down Of America" you should get mad.

  5. I am very interested to come across this post about those physical fitness test which I participated the sixth and seventh perhaps eighth-grade... I don't recollect getting any of those lovely badges so I guess I must not of been that fit... I came across this blog post because I'm looking for any way to access records of how kids scored on those activities like the 50 yard dash and the pull-ups and the sit ups some of the other things that I remember... Please contact me if you have any ideas about how to find this... Or with your recollections of how you scored how many pull-ups you did

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  7. Does anyone have a chart of the goals we had to reach back in the 60s and 70s? I remember we had to do a certain number of sit-ups within a certain time, hang on a horizontal bar for a certain amount of time, etc. I haven't been able to find these standards online.

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