Fitness History – United States – The 1950s (Part 12)

united states 1950

The 1950s in the United States, a time marked by the Cold War and the Baby Boom, also witnessed a pivotal moment in the history of fitness. The “Minimum Muscular Fitness Tests in Children,” also known as the Kraus-Hirschland tests, became a crucial factor influencing the modern fitness movement. This study, designed to evaluate muscle strength and flexibility in children’s core and legs, revealed a concerning truth: nearly 60% of US children failed at least one test. In stark contrast, only 9% of European children faced similar struggles.

These alarming results, presented to President Dwight D. Eisenhower by Senators James Kelly and James Duff during the Cold War, sparked a wave of action. Recognizing the importance of a healthy and fit population, President Eisenhower convened a White House conference in June 1956. This critical meeting led to two significant outcomes:

  • The formation of the Presidential Council on Youth Fitness: This council aimed to raise national awareness about the physical condition of American youth.
  • The appointment of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Fitness of American Youth: This committee further emphasized the need for national action towards improving youth fitness levels.
united states 1950

The 1950s also saw a rise in prominent organizations dedicated to promoting fitness education for the general public. Established organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Association for Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAPHERD) joined forces with the newly formed Presidential Council on Youth Fitness. Together, they played a vital role in legitimizing and advocating for the growing fitness movement.

A significant milestone in 1954 marked the establishment of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). This organization quickly became a leader in promoting health and fitness, not just in the US but globally. Throughout its history, ACSM has consistently relied on scientific research to establish its stance on various aspects of physical exercise.

Stay tuned for the next installment of fitness history!


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