Health related issues associated with sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diet practices have received a great deal of attention from researchers and media. There is now a greater understanding of the causes of health related issues, as well as, the best practices to achieve a healthy lifestyle. While knowledge is power, this is not necessarily the case with issues related to health risks, especially obesity. The number of individuals that are considered obese is increasing, while at the same time there is a larger availability of fitness centers, on-line training programs, dietary tracking programs, and public awareness; yet obesity continues to plague modern cultures.
Why is there a parallel in the increased fitness programming and the obesity rate? Part of the issue is culture; individuals receive mixed messages about what is valued. (Yaussi, 2005) The message sent is one that encourages people to get ahead through hard work, while at the same time encouraging people to maintain healthy lifestyles.
What is really occurring is that individuals are working to get ahead while sacrificing time spent on exercise and fitness activities. In addition to decreased fitness, individuals are spending less time considering what foods they should consume, and instead frequent less nutritious fast food restaurants.
While the modern research and media support the need to spend time and effort exercising and eating well, the message being sent to our youth is that exercise is not as important as other academic subjects. Physical Education class times and opportunities are being cut drastically. Physical Education classes are one means to educate youth about lifelong activity and fitness, most importantly, if included in a well-rounded school curriculum it reaches out to students of all economic backgrounds. The large number of computer applications, fitness centers and programs assume the user has means to purchase the necessary software or technology.
Physical Education classes ensure student exposure to different fitness techniques, games and activities that could encourage activity outside of the classroom. State legislatures could help this process by mandating school districts require physical education for all students during their entire academic career, instead of creating exceptions to physical education requirements or limiting the high school experience to a single year. In addition, schools need to consider creating before and after school programming that is not centered on varsity athletics, but offer a variety of exercise programs and classes to get students healthy.
Once individuals move into the work world there needs to be a means to encourage activity. One way is through employers creating fitness programs and incentives to help employees be more active. Having a company or organization wide fitness program not only sends a message of value about health, it also sends a message about the importance of the human work force. Creation of these types of fitness incentives or programs helps both the individual and the company. The work force being healthier provides an atmosphere where less employee time is spent using sick days and more time being productive for the company. (Klein, 2005)
Healthy lifestyles can be promoted through local parks and recreation departments. While often sports leagues are organized and promoted through parks departments, it is just as easy to create a group that engages in low-impact activities. Walking or running groups can use local streets, parks or tracks to get people active while providing a means of accountability through group interaction. Programs of this nature can break through economic barriers by utilizing resources that already exist, which are of no cost to the participant.
Taking stock of the preferences of the local community is essential to create a successful fitness program. Preferences could pertain to the types of sports that are offered in comparison to the cultural demographic in the surrounding areas. Not all sports or activities are valuable or preferred by all people, in Spanish or Latino cultures are typically more focused on soccer than baseball or basketball. Continuing to only offer traditionally ‘American’ games or sports negates interests of other cultures within a diverse community. (Klotter, 2006)
Angela Watson is a doctoral student at the United States Sports Academy. She has had other articles posted on The Sport Digest. Students are encouraged to enhance their education at the Academy through projects such as this. For more information on the Academy go to http://ussa.edu.
- Klein, S. A. (2005). Busy Work: Fitting in Health; ‘Work Now,Health Later,’ and Other Bad Ideas; Tips from Chicago Experts. Crain’s Chicago Business , 35.
- Klotter, J. (2006). Lifestyle Changes, Weight Loss, & Better Health. Townsend letter: The Examiner of Alternative Medicine , 36.
- Yaussi, S. C. (2005). The Obesity Epidemic. The Clearing House , 105-112.