Not to put too fine a point on it, this is the state of physical fitness in American youths today:

Lousy.That, at least, is what Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini has thought for a long time. And now, as the newly inaugurated president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, she's doing something about it.

Corradini announced a new "Fit-Kids" program Wednesday in New York City with which she hopes to improve the current sorry state of affairs.

"This group of American children is in the worst shape ever," she said. "I'm amazed at the chord this has struck around the country."

Done in conjunction with the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Track & Field, the program is targeted toward children in grades four through six in an attempt to establish healthy habits early. It basically consists of a series of weekly goals through the school year of running, walking or biking certain distances.

"Your success will depend upon how you fulfill the goals you set - not whether you can run faster or further than other people," states a handbook which will be given to participants. "This is not a competitive program - it is a participation program."

Corradini herself is an avid walker.

The program can be directed by parents or teachers, or self-directed by the student. While Corradini hopes it will become as widespread as possible throughout the nation, how many schools and students will hop on board is an open question.

Officials in the Utah State Office of Education have not been contacted about the mayor's initiative, although the state education office and the Utah Department of Health have joined efforts on a FitKids program for Utah children the past three years. In Utah, SLOC, at least, is enthused.

"The Olympic FitKids program will certainly reinforce our goal of bringing the Olympic experience to Utah children through the school system," said Dianne Hesleph, the committee's director of education.

Corradini has made much of the Winter Olympics coming to Salt Lake City in 2002 in connection with the program, which is one of the reasons the U.S. Olympic Committee has gotten involved. William Hybl, president of the committee, said he's all for it.

"Fitness is not just for athletes," he said. "It is for all of us."

Besides youth fitness, as president of the conference of mayors Corradini's other major agenda item is preventing violence in schools. She says she will treat the issue "just like the crime bill," a major bill passed in 1994 with the conference of mayors pushing hard for it.

Corradini's current plan of attack on the issue includes a meeting in Salt Lake City next month with about 50 mayors and police chiefs to brainstorm the best ways to approach the problem. That will be followed by a national summit in October where an action plan will be presented.

Later there will be a smaller meeting to hammer out the details, after which Corradini and the other mayors will take it to the Clinton administration and then Congress.

The approach will address both violence in school and the problem of latch-key kids wandering around at loose ends after school - a breeding ground for violence.

"It will be fairly comprehensive, (focusing) on guns in schools, prevention programs, other violence," Corradini said. "We're going to try to come up with some specific action plans instead of just generalities."

The theme running through all Corradini's major initiatives, of course, is children.

"The earlier you intervene in the lives of children, the more successful you'll be," she said.