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PHYSICAL FITNESS



Physical fitness is a popular topic today. and its popularity has been a major factor in motivating college students to pursue careers in physical edu-cation, physiology of exercise, health education, nutrition, physical therapy, and medicine. The Public Health Service listed "physical fitness and exercise- as one of fifteen areas of concern related to improving the country's overall health (N). 

While this might appear to be an unprecedented event. similar interests and concerns about physical fit-ness existed in this country over one hundred years ago. Between the Civil War and the First World War (WW 1), physical education was primarily concerned with the development and maintenance of fitness, and many of the leaders in physical education were trained in medicine For example, Dr. Dudley Sargent, hired by Harvard University in 1879, set up a physical training program with individual exercise prescriptions to improve a person's structure and function to achieve "that prime physical condition called fitness fitness for work, fitness for play, fitness for anything a man may be called upon to do.. Sargent was clearly ahead of his time in promoting healthrelated fitness. Later, war became a primary force driving this country's interest in physical fitness. 

Concerns about health and fitness were raised during int WW I and WW H when large numbers of draftees failed the induction exams due to mental and physical  defects . These concerns influenced the )gy type of physical education programs in the schools of during these years, making them resemble premilitary training programs . 

The present interest in physical activity and health  was stimulated in the early 1950s by two major find-, A ings: autopsies of young soldiers killed during the to Korean War showed that significant coronary artery :ed disease had already developed, and  Hans Kraus his showed that American children performed poorly on a )ne minimal muscular fitness test compared to European the children . Due to the latter finding, Presi-dent Eisenhower initiated a conference in 1955 that resulted in the formation of the President's Council on Youth Fitness. The American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAHPER) sup-ported these activities and in 1957 developed the AAHPER Youth Fitness Test with national norms to be used in physical education programs throughout the country. 

Before he was inaugurated, President Kennedy expressed his concerns about the nation's at fitness in an article published in Sports Illustrated, called "The Soft American" : For the physical vigor of our citizens is one of America's most precious resources. If we waste and neglect this resource, if we allow it to dwindle and grow soft, then we will destroy much of our ability to meet the great and vital challenges its which confront our people. 

We will be unable to iing realize our full potential as a nation. du-ion, During Kennedy's term the council's name was )80, changed to the "President's Council on Physical and Fitness" to highlight the concern for fitness. The ited name was changed again in the Nixon administra-hile tion to the current "President's Council on Physical ent, Fitness and Sports," which supports fitness not only fit in schools but in business, industry, and for the genears eral public . 

Items in the War Youth Fitness Test were changed over the years, and ned in 1980 the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) published a separate Health-Related Physical Fitness Test Manual  to distinguish between "performance testing" (e.g., 50 yard dash) and "fitness testing" (e.g., skinfold thickness). This health-related test battery is consistent with the direction of lifetime fitness programs, being concerned with obesity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and low-back function. For those readers interested in the history of fitness testing in schools, we recommend Park's monograph in the Suggested Readings.  

Paralleling this interest in the physical fitness of youth was the rising concern about the death rate from coronary heart disease in the middle-aged American
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