JFK + the “Soft American”

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On December 26, 1960, Sports Illustrated published “The Soft American” by John F. Kennedy, in which the then president-elect outlined his concern over the deteriorating physical condition of Americans, argued for the importance of fitness in developing the potential of the “whole man” and the future health of the country, and detailed his plan to make fitness a focus during his administration.

The first indication of a decline in the physical strength and ability of young Americans became apparent among United States soldiers in the early stages of the Korean War. The second came when figures were released showing that almost one out of every two young Americans was being rejected by Selective Service as mentally, morally or physically unfit. But the most startling demonstration of the general physical decline of American youth came when Dr. Hans Kraus and Dr. Sonja Weber revealed the results of 15 years of research centering in the Posture Clinic of New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital — results of physical fitness tests given to 4,264 children in this country and 2,870 children in Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

The findings showed that despite our unparalleled standard of living, despite our good food and our many playgrounds, despite our emphasis on school athletics, American youth lagged far behind Europeans in physical fitness. Six tests for muscular strength and flexibility were given; 57.9% of the American children failed one or more of these tests, while only 8.7% of the European youngsters failed.

Fast forward to today and nearly 20% of all children under the 18 are obese or overweight.

On average, it takes children 90 seconds longer to run a mile than their counterparts did 30 years ago. Heart-related fitness has declined 5 percent per decade since 1975 for children ages 9 to 17.

We have removed the presidential fitness test from schools. It is now considered bullying in states like California.

Not all schools offer gym class on a daily basis

Not all schools offer recess on a daily basis and teachers will use recess as a form of punishment when kids need to run off their energy.

If we talk about obesity, we are fat shaming. Losing weight is hard work but not impossible.

I have personally lost nearly 30 lbs in 2 years through a disciplined approach to diet and exercise while slashing my cholesterol by nearly 40% without a single pill. I am proof diet and exercise work. And despite having a year of various physical and mental challenges,I always devote at least an hour of my day to my health. Being a good example to my boys matters.

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