President's Council on Fitness
November 24, 2008 · Updated 5:59 PM
Originally proposed over 50 years ago, the President's Council on Physical Fitness was formed after concerns that our nation was going "soft." President Eisenhower appointed then Vice President Richard Nixon to chair the council and establish physical fitness objectives for the country at large, and youth in particular. Immediate goals for the very first council were to raise the standards for physical fitness professionals, increase funding for classes and equipment at public schools, and to encourage more students, particularly girls, to participate in sports and recreational activities.
President Kennedy took it a step further, writing several articles and appealing to the masses to become a nation of vigor. Photos of the president sailing, at the beach, or playing tennis appeared in major news publications. Looking tan, rested and ready, his youthfulness helped to spur on the Council's cause. Annual rewards based on elementary school competitions such as the softball throw, the 600 yard run/walk, a 50-yard dash and a standing long jump were ushered in by Lyndon Johnson.
By 1986 the tests had expanded to include sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, the shuttle run (a back and forth sprint), a one mile walk/run, and a v-sit flexibility test. The good news is that the tests were getting more challenging; the bad news is that a smaller percentage of Americans could actually complete the tasks. The only aspect of the original Councila