History: The Short Version
IN 1947, AT AGE 34, Bonnie Prudden went to visit her daughter’s 3rd grade gym class. After watching what she considered to be a disaster, she decided to use her own background in dance and athletics to give neighborhood children exercise classes. She told her girls to invite five friends each. Two mothers called her to say they didn’t want their daughters to exercise because they would get muscles. Bonnie called her classes conditioning since no one had any preconceived ideas about the word.
In a few short weeks the original class of 12 had grown to 75. They were running, skipping, jumping, leaping, dancing, tumbling, and delighted… all to wonderful music.
Then in 1949 one hundred new students entered her classes…
Enter Dr Hans Kraus
Bonnie was an accomplished rock climber and one of her mentors and fellow climbers was Dr Hans Kraus. To gauge the effectiveness of her program she asked Dr Kraus, while resting on a rock ledge, if he knew a test she could use. He recommended she use the Kraus-Weber Tests for Minimum Muscular Fitness, the fruit of more than fifteen years of study by himself and Dr Sonja Weber at the Posture Clinic of the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in NYC.
The Kraus-Weber Tests weren’t devised as tests for healthy people, but to determine the minimum muscular effectiveness needed by people suffering from disabilities (such as a disabling backache) to be able to overcome their difficulties.
Therefore, all of Bonnie’s students should have been be able to pass the test.
Bonnie began testing her students, new and old, using the K-W Test. To her surprise the new students failed the test at 58% while the students who had been in the program failed at only 8%. “If my test results were correct” said Bonnie,” I knew that Americans were in trouble.”
She immediately started testing children in the surrounding schools: 4,400 of them between the ages of 6 and 16. Fifty-eight percent of them failed the tests! Then in the early 1950s Bonnie and Dr Kraus tested 3,000 children in Italy, Switzerland and France. Their failure rate was only 9%!
Bonnie and Dr Kraus began publishing their findings in medical journals.
The White House
Bonnie and Dr Kraus’ comparative study eventually garnered them an invitation to a White House luncheon. In the letter dated June 29, 1955, Bonnie is asked to attend on “…Monday, July eleventh, at half past twelve,” signed by President Dwight D Eisenhower. And on that day Bonnie sat across the table from President Eisenhower and his wonderful wide grin. “Spitless, I talked him through the K-W Test,” she said. He acknowledged, with his big grin, that he was following her explanations. Dr Kraus then went on to describe the medical implications of what he was calling HYPOKINETIC DISEASE, and the role of inactivity in the production of disease: from coronary heart disease, diabetes, low back pain, psychiatric problems, muscle tension to obesity.
In other words, he forecast today’s epidemic of poor health.
The next day, The Report That Shocked the President as it became known, was in every newspaper, on every radio station and in every magazine throughout the country. In Bonnie’s words:
“I was hired by Sports Illustrated to write a weekly fitness column and to be their spokesperson. Countless radio, TV, newspapers and magazines interviewed me… and countless Ys, clubs, schools and conferences booked me for lectures / demonstrations.”
Thus the first President’s Council on Youth Fitness was born, with Bonnie Prudden and Dr Hans Kraus as the co-founders.
For three years the council met…
“I served on its advisory board for three years, which meant I met with a couple of hundred people, many of whom were either directly a cause of the problem (physical educators and medical men — there were no women doctors) or indirectly (recreation coordinators, boy / girl scout leaders, trainers at clubs, Ys, soft drink / cereal manufacturers and politicians) for two days each year at a military installation.”
Instead of rallying and acting on the counsel of Dr Kraus and Bonnie, the academics labeled Dr Kraus and Bonnie unpatriotic. They fought over the validation of the K-W Tests, fought over which of their own tests should be used, worried about their reputations… and the AMA rejected their findings as “made up.”
So the eye-opening study and report with its accompanying program of simple exercises that could be done in any classroom — which was designed to prevent back pain and posture problems and bring American children to a level of Minimum Muscular strength and flexibility — was squashed!
And, after three years of meaningless talk and no action, Bonnie resigned from the Council she had co-founded. She felt she could not stay and “keep my honor.”
The Cost to Health Care: Why YOU Should Be Outraged
The K-W failure rate is now up to 85% as is the rate of low back pain in our adult population. In my April blog I wrote that back operations are the fastest growing surgery in this country: about 400,000 done a year!
What if every child in elementary school (as Bonnie and Dr Kraus suggested) were given the SIX corrective exercises that would prevent back pain, prevent posture problems, and bring them to the level of physical fitness and that would make a real difference in the rest of their lives? These SIX simple exercises done in elementary schools could cut the back surgery rate at least by half and thus the cost to health care.
(Click here for the exercises that will help YOU pass the Kraus-Weber Test.)
Why You Can Also Be Hopeful
For 53 years the President’s Council has done little (other than modify its name) to change the way Americans think about exercise. Not until 2009 did the Council come alive again, due to First Lady Michelle Obama’s emphasis on children’s fitness, which is where the original emphasis was and should still be.
In May of 2012 I spoke briefly during the annual President’s Council Meeting in DC. We were there, in part, to honor Bonnie. I challenged them to put Bonnie’s program of classroom exercise into every school in the country, and to educate thirteen-year-old girls as to the importance of exercise with every diaper change for the newborn.
At Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy, Inc. in Tucson, Arizona, we applaud the First Lady’s efforts and would like to introduce you, First Lady Michelle Obama, to the First Lady of Fitness, Bonnie Prudden. We’d like to introduce you to her books, to her philosophy, her wit, her wisdom, her programs, her common sense approach and to her unprecedented volume and scope of work for the good of all mankind. She was a true patriot, humanitarian and visionary.
Bonnie Never Gave Up
Throughout her entire life Bonnie continued to develop programs and write books on fitness for every age groups and ability. As she so rightly said:
“There is a vocabulary of movement and depending on what you have been exposed to in the world of movement…. just as in intellectual life… music life, art life, book life, math life, experience life, and love life (including sex life) – people use what has been imprinted….”
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help.
Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®