High School Physical Fitness in the 1960's

JFK pushed the LaSierra physical fitness standards in the 1960’s. About 4,000 US high schools followed the program. It looks like Marine Corps boot camp.



that was impressive! We trained like that in the '70’s for sports, but not regular gym class. In gym class, I remember everybody had to run a mile in order to pass the class, but the vast majority of the class time was just spent playing whatever sport was in season ( I loved gym-class, lol ).

I’ve said this for years, Americans were tougher going back in time. Jobs were physically demanding. Most everything they did required them burning energy ( physical movement ). Not the case in modern day America.

Anybody that has ever gone back country backpacking has gotten a small taste of what life was like for previous generations. Getting water requires operating a handpump, and then carrying it back to camp. Performing bodily functions requires walking out into a private area, with a shovel to dig a cat hole. And of course, transportation is walking with 40 pounds of weight on your back, often on steep and rough trails. Everything required burning calories. But despite the “hardships”, getting out into the back country, whether in the mountains or the deep woods, was very enjoyable, and an appreciation for how easy it was back in society was gained.


The government required a large supply of fit men to be drafted.

In 1962, there were 2.8M in the service. At the peak, Nam inflated the numbers to over 3.5M. As of 2014, there were under 1.4M, and the military has trouble filling the smaller ranks, in spite of the US’ population growing from 182M in 62 to 340M now, because so many candidates are not PQ.


Is this supposed to be LaSierra High School’s gym class. That was one big school if so…and all so good looking!

Looks more like a modern version of those Hitler Youth propaganda films to me.

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I don’t know what HS it was, but I have older siblings that went to the same large HS I attended. They most definitely talked about how intense PE ( gym ) class was in HS, most definitely not an easy walk in the park blow off class like it was for me 10-12 years later. There were expectations placed on them, that definitely involved minimum reps of pull ups, push ups, sit ups, etc. My 1st year in HS ( 9th grade ), there was a notoriously hard PE teacher that everybody hoped to evade, lol. I was one of the “lucky” ones, and PE for my class was like a country club. Had friends who had the tough/demanding teacher, and they’d come out of that class physically whipped. The only exceptions he made was for athletes on game days, they would not have to go hard in PE on those days.

This teacher was a WW2 combat vet, and he was half nuts,lol, all kids feared him. My 9th grade year was his last year, he retired after that.

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What time frame are you talking about? My PE in jr high and high school, late 60s, was, as others said, playing whatever game was in season. When it was too cold outside, it was some variation of basketball or volleyball, after a few calisthenics.


Here’s another picture. I see the yellow school buses in the background. But it does involve the “Kraus-Weber Test” which is used in Austria.


brothers graduated in mid 60’s, and 70. The town I grew up in had 2 class-A sized HS’s. There were so many kids, they went to school in shifts, I believe the upper classmen went in a.m., 9th and 10th graders went in p.m.

They most definitely had rigorous PE classes, themselves and their friends still bring it up sometimes. Like you said earlier, maybe it was prep for a likely stint as cannon fodder for Uncle Sam, but whatever the reason, they got worked. By the time I came up, a new HS was built, and a new attitude towards discipline seemed to take hold ( I graduated in '77 ). We were not pushed hardly at all in general PE classes, but were still pushed fairly hard in sports or actual classes like wrestling&weight-training. But I most definitely feel we were coddled compared to the earlier years.
Might have been different where you grew up.

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In elementary and junior high we had to pass the Presidential Fitness test. So many pull-ups, pushups, sit-ups, broad jump, run so far, and a few other things. Worked on those about 3 days a week with other days playing what ever in season sport. In high school, all athletes had 6th period (last period) PE so we could start practice earlier and get home earlier. In the off season we did weight training and running.


Nope. Not my 1960’s PE experience. My PE was heavily calisthenics, running, and sport ball.

My Aerospace Beach High School on westside of Los Angeles in the 60’s had a medium intense program, not as hard core as the OP video shows but still tough. I loved it, LOL, probably my nascent gayness coming through. But by far the best and toughest part of my High School PhysEd was clogging, taught by an inspiring coach. I adoored it and can still clog.

We actually did moves a lot like this. Watch the sweat!

Traditional dancing was amazingly fun physical training.

david fb


Thanks for that video link.

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If you like clogging, you might like shuffle dance.

It’s Quite aerobic, and requires coordination.


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There is no form of dance I do not love, and shuffle is one, albeit one I never practiced beyond doing it on dares.

In the now long past and almost forgotten days of the 50’s, as a normal child in a working class neighborhood, learned on the streets and in playgrounds to march conga chachacha rumba conga bug-swing foxtrot rockroll twist and so on, mostly to car radios.

Clog was mindblowing to me as it was so simple but easily led to complications. We also did some simple square and line dancing in Jr and Sr High, which was also great.
but clogging was an intensively social dancing thing done holding hands, and doing that was a lifeline for many of my classmates who were shy or awkward, and by doing it in mandatory PE they got what they could never get elsewhere.

My favorite dancing of all time was Scottish Country Dancing, which is something like a cross of USAian square dancing with French Court dancing with Highland Fling (thank Mary, Queen of Scots, for its invention). for example of which see here:

Scottish Country Dancing is extremely congenial for wild partying, hooting and hollering, and assisting each other in navigating complex moves while snorfled with whiskey. Cannot beat it for mad delighted fun.

There are chapters of the the Royal Scottish Dance Society all over the world, and so I also enjoyed it as a perfect networking mechanism when wandering about Europe. But in my younger years the biggest chapter outside Great Britain was in Los Angeles (overseas mostly retired Scots formed the largest colony of illegals in Los Angeles for years), wherein both the St Andrews and Bobbie Burns Dayds Banquet Ball Dinner Dances often had over 10 sets of 8 dancers.

The loss of large scale communal dancing worldwide is another sign of deep trouble ahead for humanity

david fb

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