By Jack Becker
It’s 1955, the Cold War is heating up, and a popular magazine publishes an article titled “The Report that Shocked the President.” What could shock a seasoned leader like Dwight Eisenhower? A report about a potential missile gap? An early report on the gap between the Soviet and American space programs? Surprisingly (or, unsurprisingly, because the title of this post is a spoiler), it was the muscle gap.
In 1954, Hans Kraus and Bonnie Prudden published a study finding that 57.9% of American schoolchildren failed a minimum muscular fitness test, while only 8.7% of European schoolchildren failed the same test. The theory behind these results? Television, overprotective parents, inadequate school physical education, and an overall “plush” lifestyle in the United States.
Sound familiar? When you add in heightened concerns about screen time, it feels like nothing has changed. While modern metrics concentrate on physical activity instead of physical fitness, it’s clear that American children are still struggling. But history might offer potential solutions to this age-old problem.