Mile News

Tools of the Trade: The Presidential Physical Fitness Test

November 28, 2014

For many, myself included, the now-retired test evokes dread. V-sits. Pull-ups. The Mile run.

By Elissa Nadworny, NPR

For this series, we've been thinking a lot about the iconic tools that some of us remember using — if only for a short time — in our early schooling. Things like the slide rule and protractor, recorder and Bunsen burner.

Mere mention of today's tool sends shivers up the spines of entire generations — the tool long used to measure physical fitness: the Presidential Physical Fitness Test.

For many, myself included, the now-retired test evokes dread. V-sits. Pull-ups. The Mile run.

I can still remember lacing up my sneakers in the school locker room, just one of many hoping the fitness test had been postponed. Or canceled.

Abbe Tanenbaum, one of my classmates from our elementary school days in Erie, Pa., remembers the constant fear and anxiety.

"When the weather would get nice, I would dread each day knowing we'd have to run the Mile," she says. "I prayed for rain."

Brian Gallagher grew up outside Philadelphia and remembers doing well at the pull-ups and the Mile — but was embarrassed by the V-sit, the test that measures flexibility. Gallagher recently opened a fitness studio in New York made to resemble an elementary school gym. Its record board is aptly called the Presidential Physical Fitness Test.

The Test
In the 1950s, research showed Americans were out of shape and in poor health compared with their counterparts in Europe. In response, President Eisenhower formed the President's Council on Youth Fitness — to investigate the findings and mount a national response.

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