I've determined that people really don't care about the connection between physical activity and disease prevention. I suppose that's because when this is first learned, youth are too young to think abstractly enough to fully understand the relationship and potential consequences. Thus, they continue on a path of physical inactivity and consuming unhealthy food. In turn, they go through life thinking the way they feel is normal - even though their normal equates with not feeling well, at all.
I propose that it's time we shift the conversation.
How about a little less talk about cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndromes, cancers, etc. and a little bit more talk about...
If you are someone who moves your body, share in the comments below how you feel after doing so. Productive or unproductive? Useful or useless? Bitter or grateful? Along this line, how do you feel when you eat a plate full of unhealthy food? Energetic or sluggish? For many people they never feel great and they never get to experience the sense of empowerment that comes from living a healthy life.
In a world that wants quick fixes, the message to move is too focused on long-term disease prevention that youth can't relate to. It's not focused enough on helping them to find the type of activity they love doing and thus, the potential and empowerment from improving and attaining goals in that movement.
It makes me sad that so many people don't see the word possible in impossible because they currently functioning at levels below their potential.
Think about the untapped potential in your family. Your school. Your town. Your country. The world. It's crazy cool to think about where we could be as a human race if we unlocked the potential dormant in youth and adults alike.
So, I ask, how can we collectively move forward to untap this potential?
It's not enough to play random games in PE, it's not enough to have recess, and it's certainly not enough to regurgitate the five components of physical fitness.
What is enough? When our society feels competent and confident in movement, understands how movement helps them cope effectively and to feel good physically and emotionally, and chooses to find ways to move often so that they can live life to its fullest potential. Only then will it be enough.
The current message isn't working. Scaring people for a disease when they don't feel that great to begin with clearly isn't working. It's never worked, and we shouldn't assume that it will magically begin working either.
It's time to get serious about what learning outcomes we deem as most important so that we can help to develop more active citizens, and in turn, more empowered and positive citizens who are less anxious, stressed, and depressed.
So, what ought we consider?
- Ask youth to journal a multi-day commitment to physical activity at moderate or vigorous intensities and healthy eating. Have them reflect on how they feel mentally, emotionally, and about themselves in general.
- If you are a teacher, question learning outcomes formed at the district levels when on curriculum committees. Specifically, is this outcome something that students should know and understand or is what you were taught and so you assume it should be included?
- Don't ask youth to memorize facts about physical fitness. Rather, insist they bring their A game and ask them to apply health information that is relevant to them and how it makes them feel, and invite them to demonstrate learning in creative ways.
- Hold a parents night and encourage everyone to join forces and stop the conversations around calorie counting, rewarding with junk food, etc. and shift it to conversations about how to set goals related to physical activity. Challenge families to set aside time so people can reflect on a daily basis throughout the journey.
Of course we want to ward off early onset of preventable diseases! I am suggesting this is indeed a worthy pursuit, I just think it's more attainable if we ponder a shift in our messaging strategies.
What do you think?