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TueMay 2

National Fitness Day – May 2, 2023

National Fitness Day in the U.S. is celebrated on the first Saturday of May — on May 2 this year. The day was founded by famous life- and career coach Kim Bielak in 2017 to dedicate a whole day to the importance of fitness.

History of National Fitness Day

Fitness in the U.S. during the Early National Period was influenced by Europe. Immigrants brought many aspects of their culture into the country, including Swedish and German gymnastics. It was in the 1800s that the idea of good health and fitness gained popularity. Since then, the United States took a huge step forward in terms of fitness in the 20th century. As sugars and fats increased in the diets of people due to the commercialization of food products, fitness became a prominent concept because people were becoming more aware of their health. Activity levels and food intake became measurable and thus controllable. 

Early U.S. presidents also knew about the need for fitness and exercise. Benjamin Franklin recommended regular physical activities like swimming, running, etc., and Thomas Jefferson believed that fitness was a necessary requirement for a healthy life. Dr. J.C. Warren, a Harvard University medical professor, became a significant proponent of physical activities towards the end of the 18th century. Catherine Beecher was another important figure who devised fitness programs for the needs of women specifically. 

During the 1950s, many organizations took up the challenge of educating people about the consequences of an unhealthy body. Various agencies have been involved in promoting fitness since the 1950s, including the American Medical Association (AMA), American Health Association (AHA), and President’s Council on Youth Fitness and American Association for Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAPHERD). Although Kim Bielak is credited with starting National Fitness Day in the U.S., numerous fitness days have been around before this. A noteworthy celebration of such a day is the one that was held in London’s Covent Garden in 2014. 

National Fitness Day timeline

1901
Theodore Roosevelt Becomes President

The most physically fit U.S. president, Theodore Roosevelt, takes his oath as president of the United States.

1940s
An Application for Fitness Research

Dr. Thomas K. Cureton at the University of Illinois introduces his application of research into fitness, which becomes the fundamental basis for all future exercise programs.

1954
The American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine is founded and is a premier organization in the promotion of health and fitness in the U.S. and worldwide.

1956
The Fit White House Conference

President Eisenhower holds a White House conference in June of 1956, resulting in the formation of the President's Council on Youth Fitness and the appointment of the President's Citizens Advisory Committee on the Fitness of American Youth.

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