Obamas Challenge American Kids to Get in Shape

Obama to American students: Let's move!

ByABC News
June 22, 2010, 4:35 PM

June 23, 2010 -- Ask anyone under the age of 50 what they remember most about elementary school gym class and the common answers tend to be frantic dodge ball games, waiting awkwardly to get picked for a team and, finally, a push-up ordeal that came with a presidential seal of approval.

Those last tests are part of the president's challenge, a series of exercises laid out by the White House to measure the fitness levels of the nation's youth.

Today, first lady Michelle Obama went back to school, visiting Washington D.C.'s Columbia Heights Educational Campus to announce that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the most valuable player of this year's Super Bowl, and Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes will co-chair President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS).

Other members of the council include NBA all-star Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets, NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, former New England Patriot Tedy Bruschi and track star Allyson Felix.

President Obama was scheduled to attend but, amid the controversy involving Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the White House announced he was unable to make the visit.

The President's Council was established more than 50 years ago as a way to motivate American youth to get off the couch, put on their sneakers and get some exercise. For five decades, the President's Challenge has been the most visible manifestation of the council, administered by schools to measure students' fitness ability and reward high achievers with a commendation from the White House.

Michelle Obama noted today that the original mission of the fitness council was to encourage young people to exercise, but she said nowadays that needs to be combined with healthy eating too.

"It's about learning about all the different ways to eat healthy and to strike those balances and to be active -- whether that means playing a sport, which many kids do," she said. "But not every kid is an athlete and they don't have to be ... because you can get the exercise you need from walking your dog vigorously, running with your dog, doing some push-ups at home or just playing."

The program started as a simple fitness test that was a snapshot of a student's ability to do push-ups and pull-ups and quickly run a set distance. Later, it was transformed into a program that tested overall fitness and tracked body mass index and sustained fitness activity over six weeks.

About 25,000 schools across the nation participate in the council's fitness program and, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, about a quarter of elementary, middle and high schools nationwide require or recommend the president's challenge fitness test.

The chair and vice chair positions have been vacant for more than a year and a half.

In recent years, the top positions on the president's fitness council were held by notable athletes including track star Florence Griffith Joyner, former Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was a seven-time Mr. Olympia bodybuilding champion.