Obit of the Day: Exercising “Prudden”-tly
Bonnie Prudden used to climb out her bedroom window and explore the neighborhood at night - when she was 3. Her doctor recommended vigorous exercise that might so exhaust her as to prevent future evening adventures. She began taking ballet where her takent led her to Broadway.
After she married, at the age of 22, Ms. Prudden became a homemaker but it wasn’t quite enough. She began offering exercise classes to her children and her friends in Harrison, N.Y. The became popular quickly and class attendance exploded when she began charging fees to exercise. Her “Institute for Physical Fitness” taught hundreds of children how to properly exercise and stay fit.
Ms. Prudden, though, saw a disturbing nationwide trend of unfit schoolchildren. She found that a majority of kids in the U.S. could not complete simple tasks such as toe touches. She crafted a report and sent it to the White House. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, former U.S. Army general and member of the West Point football team, was concerned and based on Ms. Prudden’s findings he created the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, then a cabinet-level position.
From her work with President Eisenhower, Ms. Prudden found herself extolling the benefits of fitness in Sports Illustrated, on NBC’s Today show, her own exercise program, and in books for all age groups. She also developed one of the first swim programs for babies as well as an early climbing wall. (Ms. Prudden and her husband Richard Hirschland climbed the Matterhorn on their honeymoon. They divorced in the 1950s.)
Ms. Prudden died in Tuscon, Arizona at the age of 97.
(The image of Ms. Prudden is the copyright of Sports Illustrated, which also has a great tumblr.)