1960s High School Gym Class Makes Your Workout Look Easy

No, those aren’t military recruits. Those are 15-18 year olds that look like they could rip a phone book in half.

The PE curriculum at La Sierra was notorious: Push-ups, pull-ups, and suspended sit-ups were done during both a 12-minute warm up and 5 minutes of punishing, high-intensity exercise through an obstacle course.

Students were tested, ranked by ability, and required to wear colored shorts that reflected that rank. White shorts were the rookies who had to do a minimum of six pull-ups. (Today, a Marine can pass a physical doing only three.) 

Navy Blue shorts were the highest rank. To earn them, a student had to do 34 pull-ups and carry someone on their back for five miles. Only 19 students in the history of the school ever earned them.

President Kennedy was so impressed with the program that in 1962, he made an open plea for other schools to get involved. More than 4,000 signed up for the program, which eventually grew to include females.

Source: Doug Orchard

“He understood that if America was healthy, physically healthy, it would be mentally, spiritually, emotionally, patriotically healthy,” says Doug Orchard, a filmmaker working on a documentary about La Sierra’s unique program, in the clip above.

Today, obesity is rampant and less than half of all high school students hit the gym for any reason. In most schools, PE classes are a joke (if they haven’t already been axed by budget cuts).

Orchard and Ron Jones, a physical fitness historian, hope the film—due out in summer 2016—will remind lawmakers and educators how important physical education is to the health of young students.


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