Presidential Fitness


Former President Bill Clinton and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation presented awards in New York today recognizing 179 schools that have “transformed their campuses into healthier places for students and staff.”

Among the schools honored today, the onomatopoeic sounding Bumpus Middle School in Hoover, Alabama “pulled deep-fat fryers and sports drinks out of its cafeteria.”  (Sorry, kids.  No more deep fried Twinkies.)  Wilkerson Elementary School, in El Monte, Ca., purchased new sports equipment and “encouraged teachers to make physical activity a part of every school day.”

According to a press release, “the Alliance brokers and implements voluntary agreements with industry leaders to provide young people better access to healthier foods, beverages, physical activity and health care.”  Essentially that means they barter with food giants like Sysco, “the global leader in selling, marketing and distributing food products to restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities.”  Isn’t it comforting to know that your child’s school lunch has been sold, marketed and distributed by a multinational corporation and delivered to their school on a big, white flatbed truck?  Many schools across the country enter contracts with Sysco, and until that contract period expires – or is renewed – they can only offer their students foods Sysco carries, and most of those are not fresh.

I’m not saying I don’t applaud the Alliance (sounds Trekky, right?) for their efforts, but when I read that they spent three years struggling with “the beverage industry to remove full-calorie soft drinks from U.S. schools and replace them with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverages,” I thought, really?  So you removed 16 ounce bottles of Coke in favor of 12 ounce cans of Diet Coke?

Which brings me to what I truly want to reminisce about, the other Presidential bastion of ineffectiveness in fighting childhood obesity, the Presidential Fitness Test.  Remember that horrible, embarrasing “challenge” you were forced to take year after year in elementary school?  (Word on the street from my fellow SD bloggers is that kids still take the test.  One mom said her daughter’s grade was listed on her report card!)  According to the President’s Challenge website, the 5 “events” (what is this? the Olympics?) comprising the test are curl-ups or partial curl-ups, shuttle run, endurance run/walk, pull-ups or right angle push-ups, and the V-sit or sit and reach.

Yes, yes, if you can do a pull-up, you’re physically fit and if you can’t, you’re a hopeless slob.  It’s just this kind of line drawn in the sand that makes life confusing for kids.  I have never been able to do a pull-up and I doubt I ever will, but I can dance like a maniac and hold a yoga pose longer than most people, so what does that say about me?  Kids need to know that just because they don’t excel at one thing doesn’t mean they won’t be great at another and to be encouraged to partake in physical activities they enjoy so that they’ll want to continue to do them.

My friend Rob Lathan has written a book as his alter ego, life coach Dr. Lanny Latham, called Get Psyched!  On his site, he quotes the fictional Dr. Lamplugh as saying, “I wasn’t psyched. Then I did 27 shuttle runs and I feel so much more psyched.”  If shuttle runs have that kind of transformative power for you, by all means, do them.  Otherwise leave them to the soccer players and head back out on the dance floor.  Here’s some music for you.  As you’ll see, it’s great for doing pull-ups and shuttle runs to.