The President's Physical Fitness Challenge
The President's Physical Fitness Challenge
Source: The President's Physical Fitness Challenge. "10 Ideas to Get Active." <http://www.presidentschallenge.org/tools_to_help/ten_ideas.aspx> (accessed June 18, 2006).
About the Author: This pamphlet was written by staff members of The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS), a committee of volunteer citizens who promote the importance of fitness to the public and advise the President through the Secretary of Health and Human Services about physical activity, fitness, and sports in America.
The first "Council on Youth Fitness" was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The official start date was July 16, 1956—with the year 2006 being hailed as the Fiftieth Anniversary Year of the Council. Although Eisenhower was an advocate of healthy living and a proponent of physical fitness, it was when he read the unfavorable results of a study comparing American children with a group of European youth on a cadre of measures of physical fitness that he felt a strong need to create a national initiative. The initial goal was the promotion of a more active lifestyle and a higher degree of physical fitness among the children and youth of America. Later, the goal was broadened to suggest family fitness programs.
In 1960, under President John F. Kennedy, the name was changed to "The President's Council on Physical Fitness." Kennedy was a firm believer in the pursuit of fitness goals for the entire age span, and wished to create more emphasis on family activities as well as adult- and elder-oriented fitness programs. It was his goal to create a fitter, more active country, and to engage every citizen of the United States to be involved in voluntary personal activity programs.
President Lyndon Johnson decided to further push the idea that fitness can be fun and rewarding, and created the "Presidential Physical Fitness Award," creating goals and incentives for youth to excel in school fitness programs. President Lyndon B. Johnson was a strong believer in the positive benefits of organized sports, and believed that they could be part of an active lifestyle no matter what age the individual. He changed the name of the President's Council to reflect that, calling it "The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports."
Congress designated the month of May as "National Fitness and Sports Month" beginning in 1983. The Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health" was made public in 1996; the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports' treatise on "Physical Activity and Sport in the Lives of Girls" was published in 1997. It has become progressively more apparent that it is necessary to motivate the United States of America to get active, to get healthy, and to engage in voluntary physical fitness programs, from the youngest to the eldest citizens, in order to combat increasing trends of obesity and chronic diseases that afflict the masses.
TEN IDEAS TO GET ACTIVE
- Use a push mower to mow the lawn
- Go for a walk in a nearby park
- Take the stairs instead of an elevator
- Bike to work, to run errands, or visit friends
- Clean out the garage or the attic
- Walk with a friend over the lunch hour
- Volunteer to become a coach or referee
- Sign up for a group exercise class
- Join a softball league
- Park at the farthest end of the lot
- Take your dog out for a walk
- Start up a playground kickball game
- Join a sports team
- Go to the park with a friend
- Help your parents with yardwork
- Play tag with kids in your neighborhood
- Ride your bike to school
- Walk to the store for your mom
- See how many jumping jacks you can do
- Race a friend to the end of the block
It has been several decades since John F. Kennedy published his article in Sports Illustrated, in which he said "We do not want in the United States a nation of spectators. We want a nation of participants in the vigorous life. We are under-exercised as a nation; we look instead of play; we ride instead of walk… Physical fitness is the basis for all other forms of excellence."
During that time, Americans have become, as a group, progressively less healthy. It is an overweight nation, and becoming more obese, at younger ages, with each passing year. Children are now developing lifestyle-related diseases, such as Type II Diabetes, high cholesterol, and the precursors for heart and liver dysfunction, the overwhelming majority of which were previously the province of aging and overweight adults.
In previous generations, most daily work involved significant physical labor, or at least quite a bit of exertion. In an effort to swing the societal pendulum back toward the middle, employers have begun to offer incentives to their workers to increase their daily activity levels by building on-site workout centers, by offering discounts at area fitness facilities, or by allowing time in each workday to leave the office and engage in some sort of exercise regimen. Health insurance providers have begun to recognize the importance of preventive care, and have begun offering discounts for gym memberships, weight loss centers, and smoking cessation programs. Still, the unhealthy lifestyle of the average American continues, and worsens.
In 2002, President George W. Bush sought to pique the interest of the American public by creating the President's Challenge Awards Program aimed at significantly raising public consciousness about the benefits of healthy and fit living. By creating the President's Challenge it was his hope that, ultimately, all of the people of the United States would choose to adopt some form of regular physical activity, and incorporate the concept of fitness into their daily lives. The Challenge is designed to be a strong motivator for improving activity and performance levels for individuals in all stages of life, at all activity levels, and at all possible levels of mobility.
The overarching goal of the The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, as well as that of the President's Challenge, has always been the promotion of healthy and fit living for all Americans. It encourages the development of an active lifestyle based on voluntary regular physical fitness and activity programs, participation in sports, engagement in age-related and level of mobility appropriate group activity programs such as dance, water aerobics, wheelchair sports, community sports programs, master's swimming, and the like. Although the initial target for fitness programming was, and remains, children and youth, it stems from a belief that the creation of behavior patterns and activity preferences in childhood and early adolescence can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy choices and commitment to enduring physical fitness. By extension, healthy and fit children who become equally healthy and fit adults will transmit their values and beliefs to their children (and so on), leading to shared and promoted beliefs in the benefits of active, healthy living.
American College of Sports Medicine. Guidelines for ExerciseTesting and Prescription, 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1995.
Armstrong, L. and S. Jenkins. It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. New York: Putnam, 2000.
Abbott, R. D., B. L. Rodriguez, C. M. Burchfield, and J. D. Curb. "Physical Activity in Older Middle-Aged Men and Reduced Risk of Stroke: The Honolulu Heart Program." American Journal of Epidemiology 139 (1994): 881–893.
Kennedy, John Fitzgerald. "The Soft American." Sports Illustrated. 13, 26 (December 26, 1960): 15–17.
The President's Challenge. "You're It. Get Fit!" 2006 <http://www.presidentschallenge.org> (accessed June 18, 2006).