What Is the President's Challenge?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 June 2018
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The President's Challenge is a physical fitness program designed to promote healthy exercise habits for people in the United States of America. Most Americans are familiar with the President's Challenge from school, where students are encouraged if not required to participate in this physical fitness program during gym classes. There are also aspects of the President's Challenge program applicable to adults, and many programs can be adapted for people of any age or physical ability. It is important to note that, while there are awards in this program, the goal is to promote activity overall, so simply completing the program usually warrants an award.

Administered by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, the President's Challenge is a national program that attempts to improve the health of Americans by encouraging physical activity. Operating under the assumption that being more active in any way, including simply walking or gardening, can have positive effects on a person's health, this program aims to get people moving and outdoors. It is questionable whether light activity is as beneficial as more athletic feats, but in the very least this program promotes awareness of the need for people to exercise in order to remain healthy.


In some cases, the President's Challenge is organized as a series of five tests for which participants practice. Different achievement levels in these five tests are associated with different awards, but simply participating is enough to gain an award. The five activities in which students are tested include sit-ups, sit and reach, pull-ups, shuttle run, and a 1-mile (1.6-km) run. Alternatives to these activities are usually acceptable for students with disabilities or those who are at very low levels of health.

For adults, awards are typically given out for maintaining daily activities rather than performance on tests. The activity itself can be explicitly associated with a sport or may simply involve being active. Using a pedometer and counting steps is often considered an acceptable alternative to measuring participation levels in terms of time. There is an adult fitness test offered as part of the Presidential Challenge, but this test is typically used for diagnostic purposes.

One of the benefits of the President's Challenge for instructors is that the program is well supported and has been around for a long time. There is online support for the program both for instructors and individuals. This allows participants to document progress and visibly see improvements in health over time. In addition to online support, there are also traditional printed materials and training programs. Students and adults can earn certificates as rewards for participation in this program, but there is also a broad array of merchandise that can be used as rewards.



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