Obesity, Hunger, Inactivity and the Search for Hidden Answers

Hi Readers,

I just received this email from long-time reader and physical educator, David Flax of South Africa. It raises some interesting questions about our perception of the causes of obesity, hunger and lack of activity.

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“Hi Dick,

This is the newsletter written by the Principal of our High School… It is what Prof Tim Noakes had to say. Tim is the leading sports scientist in S.A. and the author of The Lore of Running. A kitkat is the name of a chocolate bar that we have. At most road races the participants are given a goodie bag with wine gums and a kitkat.

If you want to use it you are most welcome to it….Keep well

David”

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“Dear King David Community,

Boy Eating CandyThis week 250 school leaders, representatives from over 600 independent schools in this country and some from Australia and the UK, collected in Cape Town at the annual SAHISA conference to compare notes – in both formal and informal forums – on educational best practice. As is often the case, some of the most helpful discussions happened at mealtimes or in the bar before and after meals…

Many of the talks were inspiring, some challenging and I am happy to say that some of them very affirming. One, however, in particular is worth mentioning. It was delivered by professor Tim Noakes, Head of the UCT Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research Unit and involved a book published in the early 1860s by a very fat undertaker, William Banting. (Banting’s information came from a certain Dr Willian Harvey, who in turn got his ideas from a Parisian, Dr Bernard.) This was the first recorded modern publication to do with a diet based on limiting the intake of refined, easily digestible carbohydrates.

At one point Tim Noakes held up the contents of the little goodie bag we had been presented at the beginning of the conference: a bag of wine gums and a kitkat, simple carbohydrates which he informed us would have so spiked our insulin and disrupted healthy nutrition that we would almost certainly notice a change in our energy absorption and our vitality for the rest of the day. Should we eat that amount of useless calories – he informed us – we could expect to increase our BMI significantly and experience a expansion of our mass by as much as 5kg in three months – just from consuming these two items every day. (I felt chastened – I had eaten the Kitkat before I got to the top of the stairs and the wine gums long before I eventually found my room.)

The really interesting part of Prof Noakes’s discussion though, was to do with the counter-intuitive notion that if insulin production results in one’s body storing as fat the energy presented as simple carbohydrates, the body would not then release this stored energy. This person would then be stimulated to feel hungry – since not enough energy was released. And also because the body was in conservation mode, there would be a significant drop in the fat person’s willingness to participate in physical activity.

Noakes’s point is that fatness causes hunger and lack of activity – and I had always believed that the causal links worked in the opposite direction: that one was fat because one ate too much and exercised too little. Surely this was as obvious as night following day?

On how many occasions did I hear my white-eye browed colleague tell all his pupils that we were lazy or stupid or incompetent, that we just could not…? I now know that he may have often been right, but I also know that he (and many others of his generation) was very often wrong and that he did a great deal of damage to many pupils.

From Noakes’s argument it is no great leap to question our educational models, to re-evaluate how learning happens and to think about what it is that makes a child a happy and successful pupil and a school leaver who takes on the world believing that she can.

There are so many occasions when the obvious and apparent answers not always the correct ones and that as parents and teachers, our job is sometimes think like fat undertakers and to look for processes and functions that are far from the evident. This may be to do with learning styles, recognizing different intelligences in children, helping children to plan or, as in my daughter’s case, simply to stop procrastinating for fear of failure and to get on with the job at hand.”

 

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,obesity,childhood obesity,inactivity,exercise/code>[/tags]

PaceTrek Program Gets Students Moving

Paul Staso Running Through Alaska

If you’re looking for a way to motivate your students to walk or run on a regular basis, check out the PaceTrek.com website.  Founder Paul Staso has developed a series of events in which he takes students on a virtual walking or running adventure. As he performs ultra-endurance runs across different countries, states and geographical areas,  students are invited to watch his progress on his website, and log enough combined miles so they match the distance he’s run.

Students log in miles in school gyms and playgrounds, to keep Paul company. They read his online journal and watch the videos that he films as he runs.  His daily journal provides information about the place he has just run through in addition to a tip about fitness and health. It’s a great way to teach students about other places, while developing a fitness habit.

You can see some of his videos at:
http://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

The next journey begins on April 14, 2011. It’s a 506-mile solo run across the Mojave Desert. School teams can sign up for free at  http://www.pacetrek.com/register

Paul and his wife, Vicki. began the P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation (P.A.C.E. stands for Promoting  Active Children Everywhere) in 2006, when he ran 3260 miles across America to keep a promise to 97elementary school students in his hometown of Missoula, Montana. Since then, he’s run across Alaska, Montana and Germany.

The foundation also provides information for the Safe Routes to School program. This program enourages community leaders, schools and parents to improve safety and encourage more children to safely walk and bicycle to school.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!
To subscribe to the free Fun Stuff for PE Newsletter, Click Here!

[tags]P.A.C.E. Foundation, PACETrek, fitness ideas, running programs, walking programs[/tags]

A New Sport? The 100m Hurdles in Swim Fins

HurdleFins_web

100 Hurdles in Swim Fins

There are a number of hybrid sports:  the biathlon combines nordic skiing and shooting; the heptathlon combines seven track and field events; the triathlon combines swimming, cycling and running. So why not another hybrid –  swim-fin-hurdling?

Sound crazy? Yup – but the World record is fast!  In fact, heptathlete Veronica Torr from New Zealand broke the old World mark of 22.35 seconds by flipper-hurdling over the 100m distance in 19.28 seconds. While the world’s non-flippered best run the event in just over 12 seconds and credible high school athletes run in 14, she’s not far off. Especially for a flipper-foot.

You can see the World record, as it was set, in the following video. You’ll notice that, unlike the Olympic hurdles races, that Ms. Torr is grinning ear-to-ear throughout the entire race.

And for those technical hurdle experts out there, you can see the entire race in slow-motion.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!
To subscribe to the free Fun Stuff for PE Newsletter, Click Here!

[tags]swim fin hurdling,hurdling with swim fins, swim fin hurdles record[/tags]

Can Physical Education Unite a War-Torn Country?

Athletes-Shaking-Hands_webWhen it comes to physical education, it seems that Uganda is more advanced in its thinking than many North American school boards. Rather than firing PE teachers and cutting PE from school curricula, Uganda’s ministry for education has announced that they’ll be recruiting 3600 new physical education teachers over the next two years.

In justifying this expenditure, the minister stated the well-known (but often ignored or misunderstood) rationale of improved health among students.

However, he also  expressed a benefit that is overlooked in North America but is of great urgency in a country with a long history of civil war…unity!

In education minister Kamanda Bataringaya’s speech, he appealed for local leaders to support sport in their districts as a way to unite their communities. In his words: “Very many countries fight each other but when it comes to sports, they are one.”

Fitness, health, national unity.

In Bataringaya’s words,  “So, education should go hand in hand with sports.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Reference: Paul Watala and Joseph Wanzusi, “Government Eyes 3600 to Train Physical Education,” AllAfrica.com,  April 8, 2010.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!
To subscribe to the free Fun Stuff for PE Newsletter, Click Here!

[tags]physical education,PE,physical education advantages,physical education and unity,sport and unity,sport advantages[/tags]

Running While You Study – Not As Crazy As it Sounds

A TrekDesk Work Station
A TrekDesk Work Station

I once coached a student-athlete who had the most peculiar study habits.

Like many students, she often found herself falling asleep shortly after opening her books. Her solution to this problem was unique. She began studying during exercise sessions. She would prop a book on her elliptical trainer or treadmill and read while pounding out the miles.

Soon, hitting the books became synonymous with hitting the gym. It became common to see her with a handful of notes while doing laps on her neighborhood indoor track. She once ran 100 laps while doing a review for exams.

When she began this routine, she could hardly be called an athlete. In fact,  this study-exercise combination helped her to drop 30 pounds and elevate herself from a recreational jogger into a second-team All-Canadian runner over the course of several years.

Having seen her attempt to study on a number of road trips (10 minutes-and-asleep), I always thought that her study strategy was pretty smart. In fact, it made sense, since she was using her brain while it was in a highly oxygenated and receptive state.

However, I must admit that I considered her study habits…unusual.

But no more. A company is now selling treadmills specifically for studying and working. Trumpeting the advantages of combining physical with mental exercise, TrekDesk now makes complete workstations that fit over any treadmill and allow you to walk while you work.

Apparently and unknowingly, my student was on the cutting-edge of exercise innovation.

I have absolutely no connection to TrekDesk, but you can take a look at their website at the following link:  TrekDesk

And my student-athlete who could only study while on the run? She’ll be finishing law school this Spring and will be articling with a firm she has worked with for the past two summers. They love her.

I just hope they have a treadmill in their law library.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!
To subscribe to the free Fun Stuff for PE Newsletter, Click Here!

[tags]fitness,exercise,studying while exercising[/tags]

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

School-Lunch-Photo_blog

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.
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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To check out the PE Update.com website, click here
Physical Education Update

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