|Health & Fitness
by Ev Chase
So what's changed? Back in the 1950's they found a cure for Polio, but today's two major killers seem to have rooted during that same era. Heart disease and cancer, both blamed on poor life-style, food additives, and air pollution, still cast a deadly pall with no definite cures readily available. Procedures yes, and drugs that seem to help, but no cure.
The love affair with a new breed of automobile didn't help physical fitness either. A Corvette, T-Bird, and the 55 Chevy were great for fun and status, but it certainly didn't help cure life-style ailments formerly curtailed by walking or bike riding. What really took hold was more driving, more drive-ins, junk food and food additives, not to mention the air pollution from cruising.
The word "aerobic" was not in the dictionary back in the 50's either, and the term "aerobic fitness" was not rolling off the tongues of millions of people as it is now. Once out of high school, unless college sports beckoned, physical activity was limited. Fitness was only a by-product of conditioning for a sport, and for most adults physical exertion simply was not popular.
But someone foresaw the unhealthy shape of things to come, and in 1956 the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports was organized to promote the benefits of a well-tuned body.
Calisthenics were the answer, and the harder the better. Calisthenics were used as the warm-up and conditioning exercises for most sports.
Jack LaLane's television jumping jacks brought him popularity in the '50s. His exercise programs and sound nutritional awareness information made him a cult hero, but not enough people actually got off the couch to work out with him.
Fitness periodicals were a little harder to find in the '50s. The highly specialized workout and bodybuilding publications of today were still someone's pipe dream.
But in the May 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics, Thomas K. Cureton, Director of the physical fitness laboratory for the University of Illinois, wrote an article that should be called a forerunner of wellness writing. Cureton said there's nothing mysterious about getting in shape and staying healthy if people just exercise more and eat less. He contended without good circulation even the very best diet wouldn't accomplish much, therefore he stressed "rhythmic" activities such as swimming, biking, dancing, and walking.
Sixteen years later Cureton's concepts were recognized by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the "father of aerobics," who published a book about his findings of physical tests done with Air Force personnel. Cooper rocked the boat when he proclaimed that exercise would help prevent heart attacks. But he backed up his statement with facts through his physical fitness tests, exercise instructions, and point tables showing in black and white how to get physically fit. Cooper's aerobic concept caught on.
Olympian Frank Shorter publicized the sport of running in a positive light, expounding its tremendous health value. "Boston Billy" Rodgers and Jim Fixx followed Shorter's lead and enticed millions of people to participate in weekend races. Runners and joggers took to the streets, the tracks, even shopping malls for early morning runs and sprints.
Fitness centers sprang up all over the country and though participation flattened out over the past several years people are still making trek to the track or treadmill far more than their counterparts of the '50s and '60s.
When the craze began, people who could not or would not run or jog, or walk, danced (aerobic), biked, or headed for the swimming pools to look for their fitness high.
By today's standards the fabulous '50s might well have been called the "fitless '50s." But the American people now feel good about health and fitness, and the wellness concept has carried the fitness boom long past the fad stage.
Boulder City, as a city, as well as businesses in town, have long been involved in the growth of fitness over the years. Check out the city parks for jogging and bike paths as well as the swimming pool for aerobic exercise.
For total all around fitness activity see a couple of our advertisers - Dance Etc. and BC's Dam Gym.
Fitness and exercise? Join it, just for the health of it.