The “Sleep It Off” Misconception

Bottles_blog2As we turn the page on another year, I can’t help but think about a tragedy that marked the end of 2009.

Two young men, who had been best friends since childhood, attended a Christmas party where they consumed, as young people often do, a significant amount of alcohol. Instead of driving home inebriated, they did the right thing and stayed over at the host’s house so they could “sleep it off.”

After a few hours of sleep and assuming they were OK to drive, they headed for home the next morning. It was 10:00 AM when they left. Unfortunately, during the drive, they hit a patch of ice and spun into a telephone pole. One of the boys flew out of the windshield and was killed.

The other fellow, whom the police assumed was driving, was tested and found to be still legally intoxicated. In addition to losing his childhood friend, this young man is now going through the court system and may face jail time.

It’s a tragedy for both families and for both boys – they are/were excellent people – the kind of young men you’d want your daughter to marry.

I guess there are two morals to the story. One, always wear your seat belt. Two, sleep isn’t a magic remedy for inebriation. Whether asleep or awake, it takes at LEAST an hour per ounce to metabolize the alcohol in your system, depending on your size and sex. In fact, that process might take even longer when you’re sleeping because your metabolism slows down.

That going to sleep will automatically make you sober when you awaken is a popular misconception and one that PE teachers, as the primary providers of health information in our schools, must contradict. This misconception is so prevalent that morning drive-time is now considered a high-risk time for drunk driving and many police forces set up spot-checks from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM.

A pre-determined plan for getting home, involving a cab, parent or designated driver, is always the safer option.

I hope the upcoming year is a safe and happy one for you.


Dick Moss, Editor,

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[tags]physical education,health[/tags]

Where Are All the Soapbox Cars?


My most memorable childhood playthings weren’t factory-made. When I think back, I had the most fun swordfighting with poplar saplings, sliding down snowy slopes on cardboard boxes and playing battleships with homemade graph paper.

I‘ll never forget our day-long sod fights up in the woods—protecting  forts hammered together from old crates and using ammunition made from clumps of grass with dried soil still attached—or the satisfying puff of dirt that signified a direct hit on an opponent’s clean shirt.

But when was the last time you saw a child playing with a soapbox racer made from scrap lumber or a crystal radio set that they had assembled themselves?

Maybe it’s just me, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve noticed any kid in my neighborhood using homemade playthings—such relics have all been replaced by space-age technology from the toy factory.

Nope—a poplar sapling doesn’t stand a chance against a battery-operated Jeddi sword with sound effects and luminous plastic blade. Why rely on gravity to move your soapbox car when a mere $500 will buy you a fully operational miniaturized electrical sports vehicle.  Graph-paper Battleship games are now computerized, and air-powered splatter guns with washable die pellets have replaced our hand-tossed dirt sods. Crystal radio sets have been supplanted by 400 pound boom-boxes with enough power to stuff the Toronto Skydome with thumping, stereophonic sound.

Let’s face it, this is not the decade of do-it-yourself kids.  And while I must confess that I had my share of high-tech gizmos as a kid, including a T-V ping-pong game and a slot car racing track, none of them occupied much of my play-time.

Today, many kids have the attitude that if it isn’t store-bought and doesn’t have a peer-accepted designer label, it isn’t worth using.  And that’s a shame.  Our children are missing the great satisfaction of playing with one’s own creations. And with this, they’re losing the ability to improvise, to innovate, and to create something usable, if not perfect, out of nothing.

Perhaps as physical educators, we should provide more encouragement for creative improvisation. Check the “Equipment” section of the PE Update website and you’ll find dozens of ideas for home-made sports and PE equipment: everything from tin can walkers and 2”x4” balance boards, to garden-hose quoits and  pizza box hurdles. Here are some other ideas—some tongue in cheek and some not— that might improve our childrens’ dearth of plaything creativity:

  • Make MacGyver re-runs required television viewing for all school-age children.  Although our students may never need to know how to make an atomic bomb out of a comb and a lipstick tube, the program’s emphasis on creativity and improvisation is valuable.
  • Allow each student one hour a week in the school dumpster to find materials to build their own game or sports implement.  This “dumpster time” will also reduce the school’s waste output.
  • Provide an extra classification for school waste materials included in blue-box programs.  One box for glass and metals, one for paper products, one for organic material…and one for kids.
  • Use P.E. class as a “market” for your students’ creative efforts.  Sometimes all it takes to get a child’s creative juices flowing is an expressed need for it.  Scoops made from bleach containers, tin-can walkers, home-made hoola hoops, broomhandle aerobics implements—these are all examples of phys-ed equipment your students can make and use in class.

Perhaps our growing awareness of the environment and the trend towards recycling will make home-made playthings more acceptable to young people.  And as teachers, we can use this new attitude to develop our students’ ability to improvise and innovate.

P.S. In case I’ve given you the impression that I was a combination Huck Finn/Thomas Edison as a child, I have a confession to make…I never was able to  get my crystal radio set to work, and I’d personally like a light-saber.


Dick Moss, Editor,

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[tags]physical education,children's play,games,sports equipment[/tags]

Quality Daily Physical Education
Will Reduce Adult Breast Cancer


New research has revealed yet another reason why quality daily physical education is a must for all students. The study, conducted by Dr. Graham Colditz of the Washington University School of Medicine, found that exercise beginning in the teen years can protect girls from breast cancer when they become adults.

The study tracked 65,000 nurses, questioning them about their activity levels starting at the age of 12.

It was found that the women who were active from their teen years through young adulthood were 23 per cent less likely than sedentary women to develop pre-menopausal breast cancer. It was found that the age period that was most important for sustaining activity levels was 12 to 22.
How much exercise? The women with the lowest risk performed three hours and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as jogging or team sport, per week, or 13 hours per week of walking.

It is believed that exercise reduces women’s lifetime exposure to estrogen, one of the hormones that has been linked to breast cancer.

What is the best way to ensure that girls get this exercise and learn the skills they need to continue into adulthood? Mandatory daily physical education classes – taught by professionals whose focus is on lifetime fitness improvement. Make daily exercise mandatory, and teens will participate. And if they exercise on a regular basis, it will become a healthy habit they will continue throughout their lives.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death among women around the world, with 1.3 million new cases diagnosed every year, resulting in 465,000 deaths.

Lauran Neergaard, “Teen Exercise Protects Against Breast Cancer Later in Life.” The Association Press, May 14, 2008.


Dick Moss, Editor,

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[tags]breast cancer,exercise,physical education[/tags]

Be on the Lookout for Students Who Play “The Choking Game”


I have just read about a disturbing activity that may affect students in your school. It’s called the “choking game.” This game has killed at least 82 students in the USA and sent at least 72 Canadian kids to the hospital. In fact, a newly released survey has found that 79,000 students – just in the province of Ontario alone – play this dangerous game.

The survey, called the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health survey, was conducted in 2007 by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Involving Ontario students in grades seven to twelve, it found that seven per cent had played the choking game. There was no difference in participation level between girls and boys or among grade levels.

What is the choking game? Kids either choke themselves – or get someone to choke them – until they begin to pass out. This state of oxygen deprivation produces a temporary feeling of euphoria. The game has other names: the scarf game, space monkey, the pass-out game, blackout and five minutes to heaven.

However, it is easy to go too far with this game and a slight miscalculation can be deadly.

What signs may alert teachers to students who are playing the choking game? Bloodshot eyes, frequent headaches, marks on the neck, and the possession of strange items such as ropes, collars and dog leashes.

As Physical education teachers, you are in a position to prevent a tragedy. You can discuss this game and its dangers during health classes. And the T-shirts that students wear in class will expose marks on a student’s neck that is an indicator of game-play.

1. The “Choking Game”, Psychological Distress and Bullying: Ontario teens continue to exhibit troubling behaviour. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, May 1, 2008.

2. “Almost 80,000 Students Play “choking game.” The Canadian Press, May 3, 2008.


Dick Moss, Editor,

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[tags]choking game,physical education,coaching,health,school,students[/tags]

Cuts to Health and PE Programs Cause Increase in Teen Pregnancy


It’s just crazy. Health and physical education classes are often the first subjects to be cut when school boards face budget and curriculum pressures.

Of course, it’s important for students to know the 3R’s, but health and PE programs will save their lives. Literally! Students get only one body in their lifetime and unless they receive the information and tools to keep it healthy, they risk premature heart disease, diabetes,obesity and a poor quality of life.

They also risk a danger that those who cut HPE programs might not have anticipated – an increase in teen pregnancy. Comprehensive health and PE programs includes sex education, which covers the potential dangers of sexual activity. And students who have had such programs are less likely to become pregnant.

Here’s just one example. Massachusetts experienced a decrease in teen birth rate from the years 1996 to to 2005. This was a period of increased health education funding for schools,

However, much of that funding was cut in 2002. By 2005, the effects were being felt. In 2005, 15 of 25 communities involved in a state-wide survey experienced an increase in teen birth rate. For some it was dramatic. For example the city of New Bedford went from a teen birth rate of 58.9 per thousand to 70 per thousand in 2005!

It’s another risk to which administrators subject our children when they cut health and PE programs. It’s time for education administrators to wake up and realize that these subjects are not frills – they are necessities!

Reference: Charis Anderson, Consequences for Life – Teen Pregnancies rise after priority changes force cutbacks in health education for children. New Bedford Standard-Times, April 20, 2008


Dick Moss, Editor,

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[tags]teen pregnancy,physical education,health class[/tags]

If They Can Block-Schedule Physical Education, Why Not Lunch?


Although physical educators have long realized the importance of Quality Daily Physical Education, the need for such programs is still not a priority for parents and policy makers. This is highlighted by the fact that many school boards still use block-scheduling for physical education classes. That is, they schedule a child’s PE classes in either the first or second semester instead of providing them throughout the school year.

Unfortunately, the administrators who make educational policy are often academics with no grounding in physical fitness—their decisions are based on efficiency rather than sound physiological principles.

This problem were amusingly illustrated as far back as 1990, in a book by Gordon Stewart called “Running Through My Mind.” In this book, he described the thoughts of Dr. Bill Ross of the Department of Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby British Columbia.

Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Stewart’s article, “Games Children Should Play.”

“In spite of the overwhelming evidence of its value, daily physical education is still more a dream than reality. Some schools move even farther from the ideal with a system known as block scheduling, where a subject is taught every day one semester and not at all the next.”

Ask Dr. Ross about block scheduling and he gets even more worked up than he does about childhood games.

“The biological nature of children and youth must be a mystery to educational planners who schedule physical education for students one semester and leave it out the next,” says Dr. Ross. “If they want to be efficient, they should do the same with lunch.

“A lunch period every day is really inefficient. Why not five lunches every Monday? A student could get all his eating finished on the first day of the week and not disrupt his schedule for the remaining four days.

“Ridiculous? No more so than scheduling physical education every day one semester and omitting it from the timetable the next semester. Exercise is a metabolic activity every bit as much as eating is. Daily physical activity is crucial for normal growth and development.”

So where does this leave us? If block-scheduling is here to stay, intramural sports and after-school sports activities are crucial. But a more logical step is to lobby against the crazy practice and to lobby for quality daily physical education.

Reference: Excerpt reprinted with permission of the publisher: Gordon W. Stewart, “Games children should play,” from Running Through My Mind, Victoria: 3S Fitness Group Ltd., 1990.

Dick Moss, Editor,

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Physical Education Update

[tags]physical education,fitness,children's health, PE scheduling>[/tags]