How the Presidential Fitness Test Set Us up for Failure


As humans, we’re designed to be powerful movers and climbers. Think about it: We’re always focused on ‘movin’ on up,’ whether it’s financially, socially, or physically. And, yes, I’m talking about climbing things. From rock climbing to doing pull-ups, getting better at ascending will have a direct effect on how you can rise in other areas of your life.

But an entire generation of kids have been “grounded”—never able to venture upward—weighed down by a massive monkey on their back. And the name of that monkey? The Presidential Fitness Test. Or more specifically, the traumatic, humiliating, shame-inducing memories that have left a scar in our collective psyche and even shaped our relationship to our own bodies in a profoundly damaging way.

For those that don’t recall, the Presidential Fitness Test was an attempt to assess the strength and fitness of the entire nation’s grade school kids, ages six to 17 from 1956 to 2013. And although the program was recently retired, its effects can still be felt today. The pervasive negative culture formed as a result of this assessment, which turned gym class into the scene of a crime, is perhaps stronger than ever.

Though well-intentioned, the PFT was a traumatic experience for many people. And as crazy as it sounds, many of us created an identity out of that trauma. Think: “I’ll never be able to do a pull-up,” or “I’m not an athlete.” And that just isn’t true.

Come on Down to Gym…

What do you think?