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National Editorial & Columnists

'Chicken fat' song sounds mighty familiar

Boomers recall exercise anthem from Kennedy era

A tune has been stuck in our head since the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it's not "Chelsea Dagger."

It's the chicken fat song.

It's the soundtrack to a 60-second Apple ad that debuted during the NHL finals. Glistening hardbodies clad in spandex sprint across a bridge, chug up a mountain, bench-press a giant barbell – and pause to check their form and progress on their iPhones. Go, you chicken fat, go!

Um, what?

A certain segment of the population nearly leapt to its feet when that commercial came on. You know who you are. It wasn't the first time you'd heard the chicken fat song. Just the first time in almost 50 years.

Officially titled "The Youth Fitness Song," it was pressed in vinyl and delivered to schools all over the country at the behest of President John F. Kennedy.

Maybe you remember the 6 1/2-minute version of the chicken fat song blaring from a scratchy PA system as you did jumping jacks – Jump, two! Clap, two! – beside your desk.

Touch down! Every morning! 10 times!

Now you're having flashbacks: Lying on your back on the gym floor with your legs in the air, bicycling. Pump, pump, pump, pump, pump. Doing circles with your arms, backward and forward. Marching in place. Trunk twists. Situps. Pushups.

Once more on the rise, nuts to the flabby guys. Go you chicken fat, go!

The song was written by Meredith Willson, a composer and playwright best known for the Broadway productions "The Music Man" and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." Willson volunteered his talents and even talked Robert Preston, star of "The Music Man," into singing.

Three million copies of the record were distributed through the President's Council on Physical Fitness, which lives on today by a much longer name.

What's the song doing in a smartphone commercial? Apple wants you chicken fats to buy its new HealthKit, a tool that syncs your running log, your calorie counter, your heart rate tracker, your biomechanical golf swing analyzer, and all your other fitness apps in one spot on your phone.

Data can be a powerful motivator. So can those awesome workout clothes. But a kick-butt exercise anthem can get you off the couch for free.

The chicken fat ad might not inspire you to sign up for a triathlon, or even to buy that HealthKit thing. But it could move you to take that important first step: Stand up, and see if you can reach your toes.

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