Turn Fat into Fit!
January 24, 2006 10:41 PM   Subscribe

The ParticipACTION Archive Project "The average 30 year old Canadian is in about the same physical shape as the average 60 year old Swede." That was the wake-up call provided by ParticipACTION, a non-profit organization created in the early 70's to nudge Canadians into getting into shape. Its history is chronicled in this site, including the story of how Saskatoon became ParticiPACTION City, competing with Umea, Sweden. You can also relive those memorable PSAs that ended with the distinctive logo and sounder. (Embedded QT in links)
posted by evilcolonel (29 comments total)
"Hey... I have a great idea: Let's make that Ampersand kid's gym class more even more hellish by combining the embarrassment of being unable to do 4 consecutive chin-ups with the self-loathing that comes with disappointing your entire nation!"
"Brilliant! What should we call it?"

Great link, evilcolonel. So many memories... bad ones, but still...
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:59 PM on January 24, 2006

posted by russilwvong at 11:09 PM on January 24, 2006

I never had a prouder day then the one(s) where I received my "participant" ribbon in gym class, for, like Alvy Ampersand, failing my country with my poor level of physical fitness.

Although Hal Johnson and Joanne Mcleod did provide me with early training in how to be sarcastic and cynical towards the media and the government. Someone told me those two married, actually. Anyone know if thats true?
posted by Kololo at 11:26 PM on January 24, 2006

Even though I haven't the foggiest idea who either is, yes, married and now divorced. C'est la vie.
posted by Jawn at 11:42 PM on January 24, 2006

During the Carter years, they had a program much like this... I believe it was called the President's Physical Fitness Award.

It's a good idea on paper, but ye GODS we hated the whole idea. Kids love to play... coming up with continuous-exercise games is a much better idea than having everyone doing chinups and jumping jacks and situps. You'll get much better participation.

Plus, of course, nowadays they're dealing with the siren song of video games....
posted by Malor at 11:44 PM on January 24, 2006

Malor -
The Presidential Physical Fitness Award is still going on.
They've just changed it.
posted by madajb at 12:00 AM on January 25, 2006

That's a .org site, not a .gov, and they're selling stuff. Are you sure it's the same thing?
posted by Malor at 12:10 AM on January 25, 2006

I remember doing the Canada Fitness Awards (Flexed arm hang, Shuttle run, Sit & reach, Standing long jump, Sit-ups, 12 minute run) and then getting a badge for my effort... Was this part of the same programme? Do kids still do this?
posted by missbossy at 1:03 AM on January 25, 2006

Missbossy: I, too, recall the Canada Fitness program... I got an excellence one year and one year only, but MAN was I ever excited! The problem was, the levels seemed to be arbitrarily determined... the year before my "excellence" year, I got a bronze. I didn't go on a huge 'roid bender over the summer, nor did I take up long distance running. I guess I just grew into myself. :)

I did some googling, and found this blog entry which has some entertaining comments... I also found this site that is looking for pictures of Canada Fitness badges... Actually, there's a lot of great links out there with stories of people doing the Canada Fitness testing.
posted by antifuse at 2:17 AM on January 25, 2006

Another quick search seems to yield the replacement for the Canada Fitness Award: the "Go Active! Fitness Challenge". It seems to focus more on improvement than excellence, but they do all the same events (minus the arm hang).
posted by antifuse at 2:22 AM on January 25, 2006

One last link: what appears to be an excellence and a gold badge from Canada Fitness.
posted by antifuse at 2:31 AM on January 25, 2006

Thanks! Actually I was also very keen to find images of the old badges and drew a blank. Well done. Gold was the most I could ever muster but I held the school record for flexed arm hang! I was secretly motivated by the pleasures of squeezing my legs together while hanging on a bar...
posted by missbossy at 2:36 AM on January 25, 2006

Wow. I missed out on "the early years", but listening to the "Don't Just Think About It- Do It!" song brought a smile to my face. Part of it was the memory and partly because I didn't realize at the time (maybe because I was in kindergarten) how dirty it sounded, but oh my!

Glad to finally know the truth about Hal and Joanne!
posted by wallaby at 2:49 AM on January 25, 2006

“Don’t Just Think About It – Do It!” Memories. It was brainwashing of the good kind.

It's too bad we see people redefining what it means to be obese. Guess it didn't work.
posted by cmacleod at 4:46 AM on January 25, 2006

Well, Hal and Joanne are still going strong with the Body Break thing.

I don't remember ever competing for those fitness badges, but there were all sorts of them floating around our house from my older brothers. Don't know if that means I was physically inept (yep) with a poor memory (yep), or just lucky.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:54 AM on January 25, 2006

Well, Hal and Joanne are still going strong with the Body Break thing.

God, those two are annoying. And that damn theme song.. "Body Break! Baaaaaaaaawwwwwwdy Break!"

Anyone remember Bodyworks? "Body works! Let me see your body work!" And then there was the Popcorn song.

Seems to me that the grade school I went to did their very best to make me hate all sports and physical exercise. It took me over a decade afterwards to come up with some sort of regular exercise plan I didn't loathe.
posted by orange swan at 5:09 AM on January 25, 2006

I remember doing cardio every morning in public school. Bouncing on one foot while "Let's go do the hop" blared over the PA system. British Bulldog at recess in the sloppy spring thaw grass. Smelling like sewage the rest of the day. Cheating at my times tables. I got a couple of silver awards but mostly because I had an almost negative weight. Good times.
posted by srboisvert at 6:08 AM on January 25, 2006

Alvy: That's hilarious. When I saw the FPP, I instantly flashed to the memory of this big-boned kid in grade school, struggling in front of hundreds of onlookers in a vain effort to do one pull-up successfully. I was one of those onlookers, and - as painful as it was to witness - I can scarcely imagine how horrible that must have been for the kid himself.

Somewhere I still have one of those badges.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:08 AM on January 25, 2006

And what about the Health Hustle? Remember that? Aerobics to Jim Croce...
posted by stinkycheese at 6:09 AM on January 25, 2006

I was one of those kids that couldn't do the fsucking flexed arm hang. My cario was alright, I could do some pushups and some crunches but not one second of the flexed arm hang. And they made me freakin' do it in front of the whole class while they tried over and over to get me to try. That was a terrible idea. I cried everytime (gawd I was a suck back in the day).

I was in school recently enough that the focus was primarily on improvement. This part of the program is a good idea. Even if you were in terrible shape, you can always improve a bit. Our marks would be based on our physical improvement and our scores on tests of our knowledge of stuff on calories & healthy living and rules of various sports etc.

But I never did do a fsucking flexed arm hang.
posted by raedyn at 8:34 AM on January 25, 2006

orange swan - what physical activity did you find that you don't loathe? Maybe it'll work for me, too.
posted by raedyn at 8:34 AM on January 25, 2006

I used to fake sick on the day of the endurance run, every year from grade 1 to grade 8. No jokes.

I was all about the standing long jump, however.
posted by krunk at 8:47 AM on January 25, 2006

I aced the flexed arm hang in my last year of high school P.Ed. I think I somehow figured out how to lock my arms, because I just hung there... and hung there... and hung there... until everyone else in the class was off the bars. And I hung there a bit longer, just to be sure I'd also beat everyone in the other class, and then dropped.

I dropped mere moments too early. A buddy in the other class aced me by a second or two. Oooh, was I pissed, 'cause I could easily have hung on another thirty seconds!

In all honesty, I think I was cheating. I was one of the smallest kids in class, I had no particularly muscular physique, I just got lucky and did something weird with my skeleton and muscles for a few minutes.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:27 AM on January 25, 2006

Ah yes, the fitness awards. Thanks for dredging up a long-suppressed memory.

I also sucked at these tests, although by my university years I was in somewhat decent physical shape. But as a kids I sucked at each and every one of these... tests. Most of which strike me as being fairly odd in physical fitness terms now.

Arm hang? Old-school situps that work your hips more than your abs? Beanbag run? Maybe that's one of those 'more-popular-in-Europe' sports.

I always saw the program as a way for the kids who stank at spelling and math to finally have some sort of way for school to validate their worth. I cannot remember a single kid who did well at all three things.
posted by GuyZero at 10:46 AM on January 25, 2006

Hah! Beanbag run! That was goofy as hell. And I hated the limberness tests. Couldn't touch my toes, 'cause my tendons are tight as a guitar string. Ugh.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:19 PM on January 25, 2006

The stretching I could actually do.
posted by raedyn at 3:11 PM on January 25, 2006

*feels vindicated... slightly*
posted by raedyn at 3:12 PM on January 25, 2006

Jawn, according to the article you linked to, Hal and Joanne are still married.
posted by krunk at 6:18 PM on January 25, 2006

Raedyn, I've been walking an hour a day for years, and lately I've added another half hour — twenty minutes of yoga and ten of handweights. It all feels good except the handweights. Fot that I need to put on some good music;-)

I love swimming and cycling as well, but it's hard to find the opportunity for those.
posted by orange swan at 5:53 PM on January 26, 2006

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