Category Archives: Health and Wellness
The ABCs of movement begin with the Athletic Stance. The athletic stance helps us establish our starting position. But, it does more than that—it helps us understand and recognize where our body segments are in relation to other body parts and where our body is in space, which is body management.
Starting from the athletic stance, raise your right hand. How did that change your center of gravity? How did you adjust? Move your feet farther apart. How did that affect your center of gravity? How much effort does it take to sit and stand? How do you swing your arms without coming in contact with anyone else in the room? These are examples of body awareness.
Many movement professionals advise young athletes and those beginning an exercise program to begin with body weight exercises. My recommendation is to be sure they first can understand how their bodies move before instructing an exercise. Once body management is achieved, movement fundamentals are more developmentally appropriate. For some, moving an external object may be more appropriate than trying to move body weight, especially for those that are overweight.
Body management is one of the three categories of fundamental movement skills (locomotor and object control being the other two). There are three types of movement awareness:
- Effort awareness: how much muscular effort is needed to initiate, sustain, and stop movement. Examples include climbing, lifting relative (your body) and absolute (external load) weight, stopping, and balancing.
- Space awareness: how much personal or shared space is needed for successful movement. Examples include how turning, spinning, and moving with others in a confined space without making contact.
- Body awareness: how your body movements relate to other movements around you. Examples include following the leader, raising your arms overhead, and dodging.
Body management skills can be promoted by applying balance, postural control, and equilibrium in a variety of settings using a variety of implements under a variety of conditions, matching the tenets of physical literacy. Physical Literacy is the “mastering of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permits us to read our environment and make appropriate decisions, allowing us to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity situations.”
The application of all three categories of fundamental movement skills will be further discussed in the next segment, The ABCs of Movement: Cardinal Planes.
Nobody is filling the talent pool! Youth sports coaches are overtraining youngsters and exploiting the relative age effect and PE is imposing an adult-centric model of “lifetime” fitness. How are we going to move toward physical literacy before, during, and after school when we can’t get many coaches and PE teachers on the same page for motor skill competence through integrated neuromuscular training? Part of the challenge is that some coaches overuse young athletes and some physical educators relegate them to afterschool so that there is no attention being paid to motor skill development and muscular strength, in alignment with the Composite Youth Development Model. What if we all were athletes?!
So, why the problem with us all being athletes?
In our adult-focused quest to display our kids as “the greatest athlete that ever lived” at Age 10 we have inadvertently turned many kids off from sport, led others to injury and burnout, and created champion 10-year-olds that can’t compete at Age 16. Overzealous parents and coaches are contributing to an alarming downturn in youth sports participation in our most popular sports. Youngsters are not being developed for athleticism so many are either not interested, burned out, injured, or are limiting their potential.
Conversely, in physical education’s quest to be recognized as a core subject, i.e., a subject every bit as important as any other subject like Math and English (a very worthwhile cause), they minimized the value of sports in their mission. This is akin to eliminating recess in order to drive test scores, i.e., neither makes sense or helps kids achieve on any level. Sports were relegated to the select few after school. Who is teaching the motor skills and sports skills needed? They forgot that kids want to learn, improve, and make us proud. That is, kids just want to have fun. Fun has been described as just the right mix of challenge and success. How many 3rd graders want to focus on reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease?
1. With the American Academy of Pediatrics’ definition of athletic readiness as adequate preparation of the physical, biological, social and psychological domains for sport and competition
2. With Margaret Whitehead’s distinction that each of us is an athlete within our given level of endowment, i.e., we may not all be elite athletes but we can and should pursue athletic endeavors throughout the lifecourse
3. Therefore, with the Aspen Institute, that everyone is an athlete
Step 1 to Universal Implementation of LTAD
All kids are athletes and deserve every opportunity to participate in unstructured play, semistructured play, and structured play in order to develop the movement skills and psychosocial balance to always be physical active, whether in recreational, competitive, or elite pursuits.
I am committed to contribute more regularly to my Youth Centered Sports and Fitness blog and focus my efforts on highlighting solutions to implementing long-term athletic development (LTAD). Through sharing my views in articles, presentations, invited reviews, position statements, etc. and learning from many other experts in the field I am excited to facilitate ongoing dialogue on LTAD and provide solutions to implementing LTAD universally.
It is no wonder we can’t solve the obesity epidemic, we can’t even agree on definitions surrounding the issue to know which way to go. Consider the recent decision by the American Medical Association to recognize obesity as a disease. Two challenges to the decision are:
- How do we define disease?, and
- How do we define obesity?
Is obesity a disease? A syndrome? A condition? A disorder? Surprisingly, there is no universally accepted definition of disease which guides us in achieving health outcomes.
- Will the one third of the population considered obese now be encouraged to utilize and possibly be reimbursed for preventative services?
- Will they rely on more medicine and expensive procedures?
How will we ultimately define obesity so that a large piece of the trillions of dollars in health care costs, reimbursement, and other passive costs that are dependent on the definition go to prevention (health care) and not medication and procedures (sick care)?
- Will an integrated definition of obesity which considers lifestyle factors help people take personal responsibility for their health and assist others in their community?
- Will the measure of obesity, body mass index (BMI), be accepted universally despite its limitations (which led the advisory group tasked with reporting on whether obesity should be a disease to say no, because of the issues with BMI)?
- Will obesity in the context of other wellness factors be considered when seeking a shared definition?
- Will obesity being classified as a disease impact other elements (social, psychological, etc.) of wellness for those affected?
Take a quick look at coincidental rising health care costs. In 2014, as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, it is predicted that 22 million fewer uninsured people will help drive costs up by 7.9% (2.1 percentage points higher than in the absence of reform). And, many of the newly uninsured will be younger and relatively healthier than currently insured individuals, so spending is predicted to increase on prescription drugs and physician and clinical services more so than acute care.
Do you sense what I am sensing? By proclaiming obesity a disease, insurers will be forced to cover a new growth industry — obesity medications and surgeries. While some remain hopeful that making obesity a disease will influence physicians to counsel their patients toward healthy lifestyle changes, including proper nutrition and physical activity, according to an excellent blog by Dr. Allison Bowersock, “evidence suggests doctors do not have adequate time to discuss weight management with their patients and do not have adequate training to do so. Many doctors report a lack of confidence in providing exercise recommendations for patients unless they have experience with a regular exercise program.”
So, how are we going to get exercise included in mainstream medicine? How do we make headway to get insurers, physicians, and lay people to recognize the benefit potential of proactive prescriptive wellness over reactive treatments? Current insurance reimbursement does not cover exercise prescription, although physical activity is the fourth primary risk factor for chronic disease, children that do not get proper exercise as youngsters are less motivated to be active adults, and even relatively small lifestyle improvements in adulthood, including exercise, carry significant health benefits.
To spread the word and begin a national movement toward taking seriously the benefits of exercise, friends and colleagues have coined the term exercise deficit disorder. Questions that need to be addressed include:
- Why isn’t physical inactivity treated with the same vigor as smoking?
- How do we engage children and adolescents in fun and developmentally-appropriate physical activity?
- How do we ensure that quality physical education and quality instruction in sports and physical activity is available to every child?
- What is the role of the medical community in combating obesity and physical inactivity?
The next question, therefore, is how will we educate the masses about the powerful benefits of physical activity? Many believe that school is the answer. After all, school is where the vast majority of our children go from age 5 through 18. At school, they can be exposed to physical activity throughout the day, quality physical education every day, and health information to help make positive choices. Uh-oh! More problems with definitions…
- Is any bodily movement that uses energy enough for engaging young children in activities for a lifetime?
- What defines quality physical education—is it fitness test scores? Lifetime fitness activities (who decides these?)?
- Is health and physical education considered a highly valued subject in school? Do educators and administrators recognize the value of physical activity on not only health and well-being but on self-esteem, attendance and behavior, and academic outcomes?
But consider that, even if students received physical education for the recommended 30 minutes per day in elementary school (150 minutes/week), and half of the time spent in PE should be moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, we still have two issues to resolve:
- We are still short 30-45 minutes of physical activity each day. Can this be filled with recess and activity breaks every day? What happens if students do not receive PE every day and/or all year?
- Who is leading physical education and physical activity? In many states, the classroom teacher in a self-contained classroom (the students do not change classes for subjects)”teaches” PE. This is the most critical age for learning motor skills, health fitness and skills fitness, and we rely often on teachers with little, if any, experience in this area. Would we do this for fundamental concepts in reading or math?
The decision to include obesity as a disease raises more questions than it provides answers. Even some of the answers available to us are wrought with lack of clear, consistent definitions.
Clearly, Cross-sector collaboration is considered necessary for building healthier communities. But we need to set clear definitions, roles, and qualifications for each partner in order to best achieve health outcomes. It is time for everyone involved in the health and well-being profession to work together to improve physical activity levels, reduce obesity levels, promote health literacy and physical literacy, and let’s get our definitions in line to fill the talent pool!