Toward a fitter future: why education must get physical: positive trends toward a healthier future society include innovative fitness equipment and activities that are appealing to adults. But the fitness ethos must begin earlier in life, and education should reintroduce physical activity for children, argues a futurist consultant

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Date: January-February 2009
From: The Futurist(Vol. 43, Issue 1)
Publisher: World Future Society
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,300 words
Lexile Measure: 1400L

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The promotion of healthy life-styles is benefiting from calorie-burning innovations that are almost as numerous as calorie-gaining temptations. One only has to view late-night cable TV for a little while to see an advertisement for some type of exercise equipment promising extraordinary health benefits, such as the Bowflex Home Gym. Games and activities, too, seem more imaginative than ever in promoting exercise. Activities like underwater hockey, bicycle polo, and cardio-tennis combine two or more sports or fitness activities. Active games originally intended for children, like dodgeball and kickball, have become popular with adults.

Many companies, like Country Walkers, Backcountry Access, and Vermont Country Cyclers, offer "exercise tourism" featuring walking, skiing, cycling, or kayaking. Even electronic games are starting to promote exercise, like Dance-Dance Revolution and the suite of games accompanying the Nintendo Wii games system, getting gamers off the couch and moving.

HEALTH AND YOUTH

Organized sports for children and youth in America have largely supplanted the games that kids used to organize and play on their own. Organized sports now start as early as age five and continue through high school, with the less talented gradually dropping out and turning to inactive pursuits, including excessive use of electronic media. Meanwhile, schools' physical-education programs provide inadequate amounts of physical activity for good health, and more kids rely on motorized transport rather than walking or biking to school. All these trends converge as a major cause of the much discussed childhood obesity epidemic in America.

This focus on elite competitive sports participation rather than life-long fitness has been particularly bad for girls. While Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments in 1972 caused a revolutionary increase in American girls' sports participation, it also caused a disproportionate increase in injuries to girls who play sports.

Michael Sokolove, author of Warrior Girls: Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women's Sports (Simon and Schuster, 2008), has documented in heart-breaking fashion the epidemic of ligament tears and concussions...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A191218441