Physical Activity and Sport

5 May

Back when we all went to school, physical education was a mandatory component of our education.  While that is not the case today, which saddens me on a number of levels thatI’ll address in a moment, I’m not sure it’s an entirely bad thing.  The physical education we received was, to my memory anyway, largely sport-related. . . badminton, softball, kickball. . . and there were always kids that did really well and others not so much.  This is true of all subjects and is what makes us a diverse and thriving population; some are inclined artistically, some mathematically, etc.  As we move through school and into life, we naturally gravitate towards our areas of interest, which again, is a good thing.  Trouble may come, however, when we gravitate too far from the areas that don’t come as naturally or aren’t as interesting, especially, to my bias, when it comes to physical activity.

What was your experience in phys ed?  Was it fun and stress relieving?  Was it anxiety producing and isolating?  My hypothesis is that the experiences children have with physical activity shape their relationship to physical activity as adults.  Those that felt uncomfortable, uncoordinated or otherwise out of place are likely to have a negative association with physical activity for ever more, making it that much harder to participate in when it’s no longer ‘mandatory’.

Today, physical activity is being de-emphasized in school due to budget.  The funny thing about that is that funding is often tied to academic performance and every study I have ever read links physical activity to improved academic performance.  Additionally, and please excuse the preachiness here, school is about more than the required content, it is about learning the social and life skills necessary to lead a healthy and productive life.  One might argue that kids are encouraged to participate in sport, which is all well and good, but in addition to my statement above about the less athletically inclined, participation in sport has become a ‘necessity’ to look ‘well-rounded’ and not the release that it once was.   The message to our children is that taking care of their self is less important than how they perform, that managing stress is something that you ‘get around to’ after you’ve done the ‘really’ important work of the day.  What price will they and society in general pay for this in the future?  We are the people setting the priorities so the real question here is, how do we prioritize physical activity in our lives?  How can we set a better example for the next generation to follow?

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