Just for the Health of It - Choosing Your Physical Activity Heroes
We just came off a month that contained both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics. As a result, I was reminded of my favorite joke about the definition of competitive athletics in the United States, which is this: competitive athletics is when 22 million people desperately in need of physical activity watch 22 elite athletes desperately in need of rest. It would be easy to choose “super heroes” related to competitive athletics, but when it comes to physical activity, you may want to choose a different kind of hero – someone YOU can pattern your life after. An article written by Mary Beth Faller of the Arizona Republic newspaper caught my attention last summer. Faller promotes selecting a physical activity hero like your next door neighbor or co-worker. That is, someone who manages to carve out time every day for enjoyable physical activity. So here’s to all the real super heroes out there when it comes to physical activity – all of you who engage in daily enjoyable physical activity in the hectic world of work, family, spiritual well-being and civic engagements.
Lance Armstrong will forever be remembered as the first athlete to capture seven championships in the Tour de France cycling competition, a truly remarkable accomplishment. A perhaps even bigger accomplishment might be if Armstrong could find a way to somehow motivate people to get off the couch and on their bikes and pedal a few miles each day.
Over the last several decades, marketers have promoted physical activity products and equipment based on people improving their performance and enhancing their looks. Very few products have promoted the most important thing when it comes to physical activity – good health.
It is time for Americans to find physical activity role models who are less worried about their looks and more concerned about their health. Charles Corbin is one of those heroes. Corbin started his career as a physical education teacher in 1960. He says school physical education classes must move away from a focus on sports performance and move toward a focus on personal fitness. Corbin is concerned that a focus on elite physical performance and a desire to achieve a narrowly defined body type will send most students on a path of failure and disappointment, while a path of personal fitness in attainable for everyone. Simply stated: trying to perform like an elite athlete or look like a movie star is an unrealistic physical activity goal.
Corbin is also very concerned that physical education classes continue to promote awards and recognitions for only the top skill performers in the class. One example he gives is the President’s Physical Fitness Awards that go to only the top performing 15 percent of students. Corbin is also concerned that the tests are skill-related rather than fitness-related. Instead of rewarding the genetically gifted students, wouldn’t it make more sense to recognize students who achieve fitness goals such as increasing the numbers of steps they walk or run each day or increasing the miles they ride their bikes each week?
What should be your physical activity goal? Kenneth Cooper was a pioneer when it came to researching the amount of physical activity needed to promote wellness and help prevent cardiovascular diseases. Corbin believes the physical activity recommendation for adults should continue to be what was defined by Cooper which is engaging in physical activity of moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. Not only is the goal a great booster of good health and a great way to prevent most chronic diseases, it is also an attainable goal.
Source: Faller, Mary Beth. A healthier look at fitness. The Arizona Republic. July 5, 2005.
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
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