Canada Fitness

I went looking for information about the Canada Fitness program today, and I couldn’t find anything. Perhaps it’s dead?

During my elementary school years, each spring we were forced to engage in a set of fitness tests — chin-ups and running figured prominently — and based on our individual results, we were awarded either a bronze, silver, gold or the “Award of Excellence.” Or, if you were like me, you received none of the above and instead were “awarded” a small plastic “participation pin.”

Although it’s hard not to laud any program that endeavoured to make us all more fit, I can’t think of any one effort in my time inside the walls of formal education that did more to turn me off physical activity.

Presumably the theory went that we down in the dregs of the participation pin ghetto were supposed to strive to better ourselves, with hopes that one day we could become bronze, silver, gold, or “excellent.”

In practice, we all thought the program silly and perhaps mean-spirited, for it seemed to rate natural abilities more than anything else. And, heck, we couldn’t do anything about that. Not quite eugenics. But not as far off as I’d like, either.


Johnny's picture
Johnny on March 10, 2003 - 23:24 Permalink

I’m reminded of the Tragically Hip song ‘Fireworks’, which contains the line, ‘caught in some eternal flexed-arm hang’, a reference to the inhuman torture that was the Canada Fitness flexed-arm hang. For my part, it was always the sprints that prevented me from getting anything better than Silver. I was more of a speed sit-ups specialist.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on March 11, 2003 - 00:48 Permalink

For me, it was the endurance run — Gold on everything but the damned endurance run. The shuttle-run, however, was my domain.

Ken's picture
Ken on March 11, 2003 - 01:12 Permalink

Riding the school bus in Loggieville, New Brunswick in grade five I was punched in the stomach by a kid named Jean-Jaques, and I didn’t fight back because he had gold in physical fitness and I only had bronze.
I remember the shame of the fat kids who couldn’t register even a second of flex-arm hangtime, Mr. Ross the principal/gym teacher would hold them up then coach them to hold on, then let go and they’d drop.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on March 11, 2003 - 01:18 Permalink

I’d forgotten the specific technical terms that Canada Fitness used. I *hated* the “flexed arm hang” — it truly was like torture. You basically flexed your arms and hung (at least the name was accurate!) from a set of monkey bars for as long as you could. The longer you hung, the better your score. Johnny tells me that “speed situps” was later replaced with “speed curls,” after it was found that situps were harmful to ones health.

Kamile Kapel's picture
Kamile Kapel on June 17, 2016 - 15:16 Permalink

I had my first orgasm doing the Flexed Arm Hang in grade four and am now writing a short story about it. Thus, came across this article, in my research.

Doug's picture
Doug on July 14, 2019 - 13:29 Permalink

I was not in the Canada Fitness Award program, but I was in the 1967 Centennial Athlete Program (bronze to gold patches). As I collect patches/badges I have a number of the Canada Fitness Award badges. There doesn't seem to be anywhere on the net that describes what badges were awarded in what year. The badges I have are the following:

  1. bronze to gold with a solid colour background (brown, silver and gold);
  2. bronze to gold and excellence with a red and black background; and
  3. gold with an all red background.

Do you have any idea why there were different badges and what year(s) each series might come from? They revised the program a couple of times so it might explain the different series.

Justin's picture
Justin on March 11, 2003 - 03:14 Permalink

I was forever among the most fit group — being a country raised jack-rabbit, but hit the bottom of the testing because I didn’t have brute strenth. I couldn’t beg, borrow or steal a sit-up to save my life and still can’t, but I could do push-ups ‘till I got bored, run ‘till sundown and bike until the snow flew or tires blew. Hauling in the award of excellence comes from being somewhat fit and having strength with it. People still confuse muscle with health. The flexed arm hang only tested how long we could put up with lactic acid.

Jevon's picture
Jevon on March 11, 2003 - 19:08 Permalink

Next to your comrades in the national fitness program/
Caught in some eternal flexed arm hang/
Dropping to the mat in a fit of laughter” — Fireworks

Ann's picture
Ann on March 11, 2003 - 20:44 Permalink

When I was growing up in the United States, we used the wretched RCAF fitness program. We were spurred on to flex and push up and run by taunts that, if we couldn’t do it, we would be lesser people than Canadians — which was somehow an insult.
I had the distinct impression at that time that Canadians could do anything since all we knew about Canada was the RCAF fitness plan and the NFB.

steve's picture
steve on March 12, 2003 - 14:20 Permalink

I was often a participation pin recipient, although I logged a few bronzes along the way. My best year ever was grade three, when somehow the stars aligned to deliver me the gold. But I was never able to acheive it again. Instead of inspiring me, I was, by grade six, devastated to realize that I had reached my peak of physical strength in grade three, and that all my best years were behind me.

The Canada Fitness program was a cruel and poorly thought out social experiment.

Johnny's picture
Johnny on March 12, 2003 - 17:14 Permalink

If I recall, Canada Fitness personal records fell like dominoes for everybody when we were in grade three. I think it was attributable to:
1) wind-assisted sprint times
2) a faulty stopwatch
3) performance enhancing substances.

Janice's picture
Janice on October 21, 2003 - 03:02 Permalink

I for one would like to find out if anyone has a record of what the tests were? While I don’t necessarily support the blatant recognition of ones level, the components of the test could be a useful tool in setting up circuit training to help kids develop better fitness. We are a national of fat kids and fat adults and we desparately need to do something about it!!!! Perhaps getting rid of cars and computers would help! Any help with locating more info on this years ago memory would be appreciated.

Chris robert's picture
Chris robert on December 19, 2003 - 16:44 Permalink

it is wonderful to see people remember the fitness award at school .My brother and I trained like dogs ,we were the school record holders for the flex arm hang (over 2 minutes) but like everybody we had our weak points . for many years we trained just for the test,it was a trampoline for a short sports carrier in running . I forgot about the test until my small kids found my badges . I would like to trie them on my boys since they are very sport oriented. Living in France I have a hard time trying to find the times needed for the test
can somebody help me.

Morley Robertson's picture
Morley Robertson on January 31, 2004 - 07:10 Permalink

Anybody remember the standing long jump? Or the endurance run or partial curl-ups or the shuttle run? I sure do. I worked my butt off year after year for those badges. Everybody in my school did. It’s kinda nice to actually remember all of that. Until I saw this forum I’d had forgotten.

Sue Pyle's picture
Sue Pyle on February 13, 2004 - 22:28 Permalink

Hi about 20 years and 5 moves ago a friend lent us 5BX Fitness plan for men to get fit. We have tried unsuccessfully to find it and would like to get hold of a copy to give to him for his 65th birthday. Any ideas?

Alan's picture
Alan on February 18, 2004 - 20:36 Permalink

Ah… the Canada Fitness Program. You all take me back. I think I ‘ll call up my mom and have her dig up my 5 awards of excellence and one silver so I can sew them on my jean jacket to be proudly displayed once again. Although not the cure to the rise in overweight kids nowadays, but something like it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Debbie's picture
Debbie on March 3, 2004 - 14:25 Permalink

As a teacher in B.C., I am interested in finding the program we used for the Canada Fitness testing. I too was in school when it was used — and although I did fairly well, I would never put my students through the same process. However, I do feel that I’m not doing enough to help increase my students level of fitness, and would like to go back to using some of those activities in a less competitive setting. Anyone know where I can find the info?

sam's picture
sam on March 15, 2004 - 17:52 Permalink

I now live in the States, and fondly remember the Socialist paradise that was Canada. For some reason I remembered the Canada Fitness Tests…Nothing was more fun that atching all the fat kids struggle to do flexed arm hangs… I have often wondered if there was a real reason for the tests…maybe all the kids who got Excellence Awards all were recruited to work for some super secret govenment agancy. I could tell you… but then i’d have to kill you.

Diane's picture
Diane on May 8, 2004 - 08:19 Permalink

I loved doing the Canada Fitness program. But perhaps it was because I never had to do the flexed arm hang. Could it be that that was just for the boys? As I remember it, there were 6 tests:
-endurance run
-shuttle run
-some other sprint run
-push ups
-standing long jump.
Can anyone else verify this?

oscar robinson's picture
oscar robinson on May 19, 2004 - 20:39 Permalink

I am trying to find the on-line 5BX program because I can afford the pamplet at this time. Can some one help me with this matter?

Kris Logan's picture
Kris Logan on May 26, 2004 - 21:02 Permalink

Don’t know what made me think of it but I was just speaking with someone at work about the shuttle run and we couldn’t remember what the whole program was called so I googled it and found this link. Thanks for helping me remember everyone. Now that line that Gordie wrote in Fireworks makes sense too!

I was kinda sporty in elementary school so I was always a Gold or Excellence kid but I think that was only because I didn’t have to do the flexed arm hang…thank god! I did the same group of tests as Diane above mentioned and I think the other sprint run was the 100m dash.

Good times, good times.

Josh's picture
Josh on May 27, 2004 - 00:42 Permalink

My father did the Canada Fitness tests, and recieved awards of excellence quite often, and I myself would like to know the standards for this test, you know, so we can have some comparisonb and all. If you find anything, please email me.

Laura's picture
Laura on June 6, 2004 - 14:48 Permalink

I was one of those kids who was always picked last for teams. Not naturally strong or athletic, the Canada Fitness program was even more torturous than regular gym because not only were we non-jocks “inferior,” we were formally recognized as such!

By junior high, I was completely turned off of phys. ed. Now very active in my adult life (despite the endless blows to my self-esteem in gym class), I look back sadly on all of those competitive activities that taught me (wrongly) that fitness was “not for me.”

Man, I sure hope we are doing a better job in phys. ed. programming these days…

Sara's picture
Sara on June 24, 2004 - 23:17 Permalink

I had to do the flexed arm hang…but there were different time requirements for girls. I remember the program as a great motivator though…my running scores always held me back from the coveted excellence award and so every lunch hour i would train(!!) It all was worth it though and in the end my name was called to stand in front of the assembly and collect that award of excellence!!!

Sarah's picture
Sarah on June 29, 2004 - 03:46 Permalink

I am a teacher and have tried to get my students to get into shape playing sports, but have not been entirely successful. I know that more encouragement to stay in shape physically needs to come from the home, but since this not happening I think we as educators need to take some responsibility in creating a desire for fitness.

I just read that the Canada Fitness Program was discontinued because some kids couldn’t achieve. Isn’t it the same for any other type of program? Academics are difficult for some, but we don’t throw out the grade book—we just find a way of helping everyone have success. Can’t we do that with physical education?

Just because our country seems to be out shape doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work at getting healthy. I am interested in developing a program that would be sort of like the Canada Fitness Progam but without the prestigious award system—or would that even work? Perhaps there is already a modified program out there that would be beneficial for helping our kids stay in shape. If anyone knows of one could you let me know? Thanks, Sarah

Phil Emberley's picture
Phil Emberley on August 18, 2004 - 14:57 Permalink

I find this site very interesting. I have fond memories of the Canada Fitness Award, and in fact received the excellence award one year. I think that it is disappointing that a national program like this is non-existent today. We lament the lack of Olympic medals in Athens but at the same time have record obesity rates among adolescents. We have record waiting times for medical services, but do nothing to encourage the life-long commitment to exercise and disease prevention. Perhaps instead of throwing millions of $ at the healthcare system, Ottawa should become more proactive.

Jennifer's picture
Jennifer on August 19, 2004 - 07:37 Permalink

The Hip song sparked memories for me too and I googled my way to this site. I saw several people asking for a record of the program and I found this site which lists the guidelines from 1986:…

John S's picture
John S on September 6, 2004 - 23:40 Permalink

The flexed arm hang was replaced by push-ups in some schools.

There were six events:

1. Endurance run
2. 50-metre run
3. Standing long jump
4. Shuttle run
5. Flexed arm hang or push-ups
6. Speed sit-ups or curl-ups

The curl-ups were different from sit-ups in that they were not a matter of speed, but consistency as you had to do a curl-up at a steady, consistent speed to that indicated by the tester. In order to win the award of excellence, you had to achieve the excellence level in ALL six events. I remember a few years in which I narrowly missed out on the excellence award by coming up just short of the excellence level in one event. In my elementary school years, I ended up with 2 excellence, 3 gold, and 1 silver:

grade 2: gold
grade 3: gold
grade 4: silver
grade 5: gold
grade 6: excellence
grade 7: excellence

The badges appeared in the same colour as described by their name, with the excellence badge appearing in a dark red colour. They were circular and measured 3 inches in diametre. Along with the excellence award badge came a Certificate of Excellence signed by the Prime Minister (then Brian Mulroney) and the Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport. The cerficate read:

” To (your name) in recognition of attaining the highest achievement in the CANADA FITNESS AWARD “

Sean Henderson's picture
Sean Henderson on October 4, 2004 - 18:30 Permalink

Here is a site that will help all keep fit.
Thank You

Andrew's picture
Andrew on March 20, 2005 - 16:12 Permalink

There is one thing about the Canada Fitness Program…everyone remembers it, but there is nowhere to find the detailed information. With our kids, there is definately alot lacking in schools around fitness. I would like to see a similar program instituted in schools, because it at least gave you something to strive for. Perhaps the activities need to be changed, but come on schools…DO SOMETHING!!!! By the way, I never did achieve the Award of Excellence.

Nicole's picture
Nicole on March 29, 2005 - 05:05 Permalink

I just wanted to make a note, I was actually looking for some Canada Fitness Award info that goes beyond the age of 18. Just so everyone knows, the Cadet program (from teens aged 12-18) does this testing yearly, and I wanted to see if myself as an instructor would qualify but my age group is not in the charts in the handbooks we give the youth.

theSkinny's picture
theSkinny on May 6, 2005 - 01:24 Permalink

i’m currently putting together a little project about the canada fitness program. I’m looking for any info i can, from anecdotes to academic article on the subject. I invite anyone to participate in the discussions (also, if anyone actually has an image of the “participation pin” i’d love to have one sent to me…. see an excellence award and a gold patch at:…

be seeing you,

Jay Jones's picture
Jay Jones on June 21, 2005 - 04:57 Permalink

I started public school in ‘72 and graduated in ‘84.I have at least 8 of these awards at home, I’m thinking the program started around ‘74 and I’m not sure how long it continued. The events we competed in were:
- 50 yard dash
- 300 yard run
- flexed arm hang
- shuttle run (4 trips back and forth, picking up and dropping objects0
- sit ups (number you could do in a minute)
- standing long jump
I think I got the award of excellence in grade 5 and 6, a couple of golds, a couple of silvers, and by grade 10 or 11, I dropped all the way to the bronze.
I stumbled on to this discussion after looking up some tragically hip lyrics…kind of fun to remember that far back!

Ben Winsor's picture
Ben Winsor on December 29, 2005 - 04:20 Permalink

GEEZ…..This brings back some memories. I used to dread fitness testing day. Used to have a pile of “Participaction” ribbons lying around til I started faking sick so I could skip it. I could never do any of that stuff….cept the shuttle run. Funny how things work out…I’m now a fire fighter (FFCC Competitor), self defense instructor and certified fitness trainer. I work out 6 days a week. Would love to go back and try that all again! Would do anything to get my hands on one of those ribbons to hang on my wall. Hey, if anyone has one….please email me…i’d pay for one for sure!


Ryan Waddell's picture
Ryan Waddell on January 25, 2006 - 11:32 Permalink

Ahhh the good ol’ Canada Fitness awards. I used to loooove Canada Fitness week, almost as much as the Jump Rope For Heart week! For those of you who might wonder if there is something similar today, I give you the

Go Active! Fitness Challenge

It focuses more on personal improvement from year to year, which is better in my opinion, but there you have it. :)

stewie's picture
stewie on January 30, 2006 - 22:44 Permalink

I think the guy who called it a cruel social experiment hit it on the head.

Honestly, the testing scarred me for life. Thanks to this program, my dorkiness was broadcast to the entire class on an annual basis, including all the girls. I was fine playing sports, but couldn’t do well in these ridiculous tests. I was a participaction winner, with the odd bronze award thrown in.

At a young age, the last thing you need is to be put in the spotlight for your physical abilities, or lack thereof. Nobody knew or cared what you got on the math test, but everyone knew if you were one of the few losers in the class who couldn’t even muster a bronze award.

I’m not one to whine or complain all that much, but this is something that has bothered me for a long time. I can’t understand why our government subjected us to this cruelty.

Shelley's picture
Shelley on February 25, 2006 - 05:43 Permalink

My brother was cleaning out his room and collected this box of old badges and pins. Amongst them were three of my Canada Fitness badges. I can recall receiving the silver and the gold that I found, but I was surprised to see what I remembered as being Excellence! I didn’t think I ever got one and I knew it wasn’t my brother’s because the program was gone by the time he was in school. So I googled Canada Fitness to verify if it indeed was Excellence and it was! Wow! My mom says she remembers me getting it, so I guess I did! As I am not the most athletic person now, I am seriously considering sewing it on a bag or something as a retro reminder of my “athletic” supremacy in the 80s! I think it would be a great conversation starter! It was really funny to read all these comments — an experience that really bonded all of us who grew up with this program! As a teacher now, I am really glad we don’t have it anymore. It obviously was pretty traumatic for most kids and I wouldn’t want to put my students through all that! But I’m proud to be able to relate to all these stories!

MK's picture
MK on February 27, 2006 - 06:45 Permalink

Don’t know what made me think of the fitness testing that brought a healthier lifestyle to generations?Although some found the Canada Fitness tests a nightmare,at least there was a program that made you think about fitness?

I agree with those who are now teachers,something like this could/should be brought back.To me, the badge system is an incentive and should remain a part of any new version of Canada Fitness.

I had fun with the program,think i tried to beat the times 4 the guys?Yes,i was that competitive,only remember competing against those who were trying for Excellence also.

To this day,sports plays a role in the foundation of who I am?

Can’t find any [good] archive of the original program,think it was some sort of National secret?!


David's picture
David on March 1, 2006 - 15:17 Permalink

If anyone saw this week’s episode of Corner Gas, one of the three plots revolved around the Canada Fitness Program. Oscar waved the book around and had the local police officer running the drills throughout the show. As Oscar said, “The Canada Fitness Program was the last great thing this country ever did”. Hope you can see it.

Shiloh Julien's picture
Shiloh Julien on March 3, 2006 - 17:48 Permalink

Actually it was the episode of Corner Gas that reminded me of my time in school attempting to get the elusive Award of Excellence. I finally acheived this in garde 6. In grade school I was a tiny little girl but was freakishly strong and could out last most of the boys in my class for some of the events. I did always feel bad for those girls and buys in the class that just didn’t excel in sport. I asked my boyfriend if he remebered it but he said they never did it at his school. Maybe being in different school boards is the reason. I think I will try and dig up my awards this weekend and show him. I never got a participaction ribbon. I was mainly a gold award winner, the endureance run just about killed me every year. It’s hillarious what we considered to be a normal part of childhood. Almost like a right of passage.

austin Harpham's picture
austin Harpham on March 5, 2006 - 00:59 Permalink

I was a teacher who often taught P.ED. for over 30 years. The biggest health problem in our country is said to be obesity. A lot of cardiovascular problems are also up there. I liked the Fitness Tests and I think that most ( not all ) of my students liked them as well. I had quite a lot of students who never liked anything we did in school so I did not expect everybody to like them. I think that some emphasis on fitness is necessary. I know that a number of exercises that were originally used have been judged to be unhealthy. I have a hard time believing that it is better to be an obese couch potato. There is little doubt that some students felt threatened and perhaps put down by the process. I think that I got better as an educator at reducing that anxiety but the reality of school is that if you want to compare yourself to others, the possibility is great in every subject. I do not believe that was a good reason for throwing out a good program.

John's picture
John on April 22, 2006 - 21:43 Permalink

I’d like to find a copy of the scoring charts for the Canada Fitness Test. I’m looking at the Air Cadet standards and I think they are incorrect.

If anyone soon can help, that would be fantastic… pls send to



sunshine's picture
sunshine on August 15, 2006 - 19:11 Permalink

Like most of you, I remember dreading Fitness testing day. And I also remember cheating my way to an Excellence badge one year. How? I don’t remember. But I know that getting that badge took brains and not brawn. Flexed arm hang…. I still can’t do them! I don’t know how my teacher kept from laughing out loud when she presented me with that beautiful red badge… The idea behind the program was a good one… but it certainly didn’t get me to love sports.
Thanks for the trip down the darker part of my memory lane.

Stephane's picture
Stephane on August 22, 2006 - 21:57 Permalink

Great thread! Brings back a lot of memories. I was one of the kids who could not sleep the night before Canada Fitness Day because I was so excited. Had a few Excellence, a few Gold’s and a few Silver’s.
I’m not sure when the Canada Fitness Program ended, but one interesting statistic is that between 1981 and 2001, the obesity rate among 7-13 year olds in Canada increased from 3.7% to 19%. I do not think it a conincidence that during this time, Phys Ed, and programs such as this have gone the wayside in elementary schools.

Christina's picture
Christina on September 12, 2006 - 01:47 Permalink

Ahh the Canada Fitness program… I know that it ran until at least 1992, because we did it in grade 7, which would have beeen ‘92. I was usually decent, mainly golds, a few silvers, but the one I remember most was in grade four, when I got excellence. This was not due to any extraordinary physical exertion on my part. two weeks before the testing I’d broken my wrist in 6 places, and was sporting a cast from my fingers all the way up to my armpit. Apparently a shattered wrist wasn’t excuse enough to get out of the testing, and so I had to do everything but the push-ups. As fun as that endurance run was at the best of times, it’s twice as great when you have a huge, heavy cast to drag around. I guess they felt sorry for me with that excellence award.

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on September 22, 2006 - 19:59 Permalink

Finally, a chance to upgrade my Participation Pin to an Award of Excellence (and for a mere $200)! I don’t think “better late than never” applies in this instance, though…