Irish Physical Activity Campaign

It’s not just North Americans who have begun to realize the importance of physical activity for children. Childhood obesity and inactivity is a phenomenon in every affluent, developed country in the world. Fortunately, some of these countries have launched public campaigns to correct the problem.

Here’s one example. This public advertisement, from Ireland, is called: Physical Activity – It All Adds Up. This video describes an easy way for children to get in an hour of exercise every day.

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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,physical activity campaigns,physical fitness for children>[/tags]

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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To subscribe to the free Fun Stuff for PE Newsletter, Click Here!

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

Sun and Mud and a Spring Day and Just Having Fun

At last! After long winter months of running in school hallways. After endless hurdle drills on linoleum and cement. After dreary, dark training runs on icy roads—Spring had sprung. We were finally the recipients of a beautiful, sunny Spring day, and, track coach that I am, it was time to rejoice. Although it was partly snow-covered, 200 meters of our outdoor track had melted.

With that familiar spring smell of fresh air and melting dog-doo in our nostrils, we were finally ready to do some serious damage in track practice. To begin the deadly serious business of winning city, regional and provincial championships… and who knows—maybe even qualifying for the Olympic trials later in the summer.

It was a Saturday sprinters’ practice and our racehorses were ready to tear up the track, unfettered by the threat of looming hallway walls and locker-door collisions.

But surprisingly, two of our distance runners also showed up for practice. I was surprised because their Saturday workout was just an optional, easy distance run. These two girls, 14 and 15 years old, were elite cross-country skiers who enjoy running in the summer time.

“We’ll just go for a run,” they said as they left the track at a slow jog. I assumed they would head down the road where the footing was safe.

Our stadium is in a beautiful setting: surrounded by rocky hills that are criss-crossed with skiing and jogging trails. Although these trails are popular in mid-winter and summer, in the Spring they’re a no-man’s land of mud, ice, partially melted snow and leafless trees. It was part way through our workout that I realized the girls had headed onto these trails. My first clue came 20 minutes before they actually jogged back into view—a fanfare of giggles and screams and laughter echoing sharp and clear off the hills.

One of my sprinters looked at me and asked, “Where in the heck are they—out on the trails? They’ve got to be nuts!”

Another fast 200m for our sprinters, then another. I kept peeking up into the hills, waiting for the source of the laughter to appear.  And then I saw them. Both girls, wearing only T-shirts, shorts and shoes, sliding down a snowy slope on their butts. And laughing like crazy. Landing at the bottom, they ran back up the hill and slid down standing up—cross country skiing without their skis.

Their “run” completed, they jogged back to the track, climbed our timers’ stand and lay on their backs,  their muddy feet flopped onto a handrail. Contented, they just lay there, soaking up the sun and the warmth and the fresh air.

For the girls, it had been a great afternoon. No video games, no high-tech toys, no television, no organized team competitions—just a muddy trail, a pair of shoes, a sunny day and a friend to enjoy them with.

One of my older girls remarked, “Teenagers really are annoying at that age. All they do is giggle.” I didn’t say anything, but I had to disagree—I left that practice feeling happy, and carefree, and very young.

It had occurred to me as I watched them sliding down that hill—and I can still hear their laughter echoing off the hills as I write this article—that this is what sports, and fitness, and the professions of coaching and physical education are really all about.

Winning and excellence and personal improvement are admirable goals. But in it’s essence, sport is really just play. Necessary play. And the joy that comes with movement, and being fit and interacting in a physical way with nature. And being young…and (for us older folks) realizing that by being able to play, we can experience the joy and innocence of youth all of our lives.

I hope the girls always remember that day. And I hope I will too. Especially on those occasions when I take the achievement aspect of sport a little too seriously. I hope the memory of their laughter ringing off those hills will give me a subtle slap on the face and the reminder, ”Hey, it’s only play after all. This is supposed to be fun!”

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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,track,running,fitness fun,youth sports,youth fitness[/tags]

The Fun Theory is a Physical Education Staple

The “Fun Theory” website is dedicated to the idea  that “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better.” It’s an initiative of Volkswagen, as a marketing tool to develop the image that their vehicles are fun, but the ideas are all user-generated and the concept is an excellent one. Here’s how it works: there is a cash award for the best ideas – videos are submitted to the site showing each submitter’s theory in action – and an online vote is taken to determine the winner.

Some of the ideas are simple, some require complex engineering, but the results are a lot of fun to see – and many seem highly effective!

Here’s one idea with a fitness slant. You’ll often see an escalator beside a set of stairs – in subways, airports, malls, etc. Usually, the stairs are vacant while the escalator is highly used. In the situation shown on the video, 97% took the escalator while the stairs were typically used only 3% of the time. So a group of engineers got together to make the stairs more fun. They completely changed the user percentage – after their “fun” change, 66% of users took the stairs while the escalator percentage dropped from 97% to 34%!

“Fun” is a theory that physical education teachers have been practicing for decades. One of the main goals of good physical educators is to make fitness fun, because that’s the best way to motivate students into making physical activity part of their daily lifestyle.

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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,fun theory,fun activity,fun fitness[/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]

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]