President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition

President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition logo

The President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition (PCSFN) is an advisory committee whose mission is to educate and empower Americans to live a healthy lifestyle which includes regular physical activity and good nutrition.1

President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the President's Council on Youth Fitness on July 16, 1956 after learning that American children were less fit than their European peers. Vice President Richard Nixon chaired the Council, which included cabinet secretaries as members. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy expanded the focus of the Council to include all Americans and renamed it the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

Further changes came with President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966. He included sports and changed the name to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. By this time the council had three main focuses: daily moderate physical activity for disease prevention and health, strenuous activity with stretching and strength training for fitness and health benefits, and sports participation with an emphasis on sportsmanship.

The mission of the Council continued to evolve through the years, and in 2010, President Barack H. Obama expanded the Council's mission to include nutrition and renamed it the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.2 The Council was mandated to expand national interest in regular physical activity, sports, fitness, and nutrition; coordinate public and private programs that promote these interests; expand availability of information concerning these interests; and include all Americans, but especially children, youth, and at-risk populations.3

The President’s Council has a number of programs and initiatives to inspire participants to be active, eat well, and get healthy. One of the earliest programs was the President's Physical Fitness Award that was created in 1966 as a fitness recognition program for school-aged children. The program grew to include the areas of physical fitness, active lifestyle, and health fitness. Annually, the three schools from each state, which had the highest percentage of their students win the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, were awarded the State Champion Award. Additionally, the schools with the highest quality physical education programs could also be recognized by the National School Demonstration Program.

The President’s Physical Fitness Award evolved in 1988 to be known as the President’s Challenge program. In 2012 the Presidential Physical Fitness Test was phased out and a new program was launched to ensure students are fit for life called the Presidential Youth Fitness Program. Moving away from the fitness assessment, the program has emphasized the value of living a physically active and healthy lifestyle in school and throughout life.4

The original Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) included all ages. Adults could earn the PALA after being physically active for 30 minutes a day (or 8,500 steps on a pedometer), five days a week, for 6 out of 8 weeks. Children and youth could win the PALA in the same way but with 60 minutes of physical activity a day (or 11,000 steps for girls and 13,000 steps for boys).5

In September 2010, the Million PALA Challenge was launched by a joint initiative of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and the First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign. Challenging a million Americans to earn their PALA award, Michelle Obama led the way by earning hers that fall. A year later, over 1.7 million Americans had earned the PALA award.6 The success of the challenge was celebrated at the Nickelodeon Worldwide Day of Play on September 24, 2011 in Washington, D.C.

During the Worldwide Day of Play, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the next phase of the PALA, the PALA+.7 This new award maintained the same physical activity requirements and added a nutrition challenge of adding one new healthy nutrition practice each week.

In March of 2017, the President’s Council launched a new version of the PALA+ program in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s free online food and activity tracking tool, SuperTracker. The eight-week program allows participants ages 6 and up to log their physical activities and food items consumed into the online program to help them manage and reach their health goals. There are two components to the physical activity goal to be met: active minutes and active days. Youth need to do at least 300 minutes of physical activity each week and be active at least five days a week. Adults need to do at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week and be active at least five days a week. The healthy eating portion of the program gives participants the freedom to tailor the program to their specific needs. To be eligible for the PALA+ award, they must complete at least six of the nine healthy eating goals including at least one of the three dietary limit goals each in one week. The six food or drink goals include fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, dairy, and water; the three dietary limit goals include added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.8

In 1983, the month of May was designated the National Fitness and Sports Month, now known as the National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.9 The President's Council maintains a website to support May celebrations and their ongoing programs. They also publish the quarterly publication, Elevate Health, formerly called PCFSN Research Digest. The publication covers a range of topics concerning sports, physical activity and fitness, physical education, nutrition, and dietetics research. The publication seeks to present “a balanced, research-to-practice, evidence-based analysis of the topic for educators, sports coaches, public health practitioners and students.”10

The PCSFN consists of up to 25 volunteers who are appointed by the President for a two year term. They are led by an Executive Director with offices located in Rockville, Maryland.11

President Donald J. Trump released a new Executive Order for the President’s Council on February 27, 2018, renaming it the President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, addressing the administration’s commitment to increasing participation in youth sports. This administration recognizes the benefits of youth sports participation, and the importance of having all Americans be physically active and eat a healthy, nutritious diet.12

  • 1. “Our Mission & Vision.” President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. < https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/about-pcfsn/our-mission-and-vision/index.html> 29 March 2017.
  • 2. “Our History.” President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. < https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/about-pcfsn/our-history/index.html > 29 March 2017.
  • 3. Op.cit., “Our Mission & Vision.”
  • 4. “President’s Challenge Transition.” President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. < https://www.fitness.gov/participate-in-programs/presidents-challenge/ > 29 March 2017.
  • 5. “PALA: Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.” National Council of Youth Sports. < http://www.ncys.org/education/pala.php > 29 March 2017.
  • 6. Lindsay, Erin. “First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrates the Success of Million PALA Challenge at Nickelodeon's Worldwide Day of Play.” The White House Blog. September 25, 2011. < http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/09/25/first-lady-michelle-obama-celebrates-success-million-pala-challenge-nickelodeon-s-wo > 29 March 2017.
  • 7. “PALA+, activity + nutrition.” President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. < http://www.fitness.gov/ > 30 Sep. 2011.
  • 8. “Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.” President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. < www.fitness.gov/pdfs/pala-supertracker-user-guide.pdf > 29 March 2017.
  • 9. Op. cit., “Our History.”
  • 10. “Research & Reports.” President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. < https://www.fitness.gov/resource-center/research-and-reports/ > 29 March 2017.
  • 11. “Meet The Council.” President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. < https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/meet-the-council/index.html > 29 March 2017.
  • 12. President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. Executive Order. 2 March 2018. < https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/03/02/2018-04414/presidents-council-on-sports-fitness-and-nutrition > 8 May 2018.