There were several topics I considered writing about in this month's blog (pain and how it impacts movement, gluteal versus hamstring dominance and how it affects bridging), but after reading "F as in Fat," a report released by Trust for America's Health, I decided those other posts could wait. "F as in Fat" paints a rather dark picture of the potential state of America's obesity problem (to read the full report, click here: http://healthyamericans.org/assets/files/TFAH2012FasInFat18.pdf). The good news is that some progress is being made. In Mississippi, for instance, the rate of overweight and obesity in public school elementary students dropped from 43% in 2005 to 37.3% in 2011. That is a substantial difference, and one that should be applauded. However, over 35% of adults are considered obese (BMI of 30 or greater) and 19.6% of children between the ages 6-11 were considered obese in 2008. This is tragic, not only from a healthcare cost aspect, but because of the negative impact obesity has on wellbeing. Obesity has many causes and can be looked at from many different angles, but from a fitness professional's standpoint, increasing physical activity is paramount, both in our children and in our adults. In California, one of the fitter states with 23.8% of the adult population obese, 19.1% of adults reported they participated in no physical activity in the last 30 days. And in Colorado (the fittest state, at 20.7% obese), only 29.2% of high school students were physically active for 60 minutes, 7 days a week.
In all fairness, as an exercise professional and one who reads the trending news bits in popular media, it is easy to see how daunting exercise can be. "How much?" "What type?" "Is one better than the other?" "This fitness professional is showing me the best movement to tone my behind, but I tried to bend like she did and strained my back. What should I do now?" "And how come some people say high intensity is the only way to go?" This, coupled with some of the bootcamp style exercise programs popularized by shows like "The Biggest Loser," is enough to make a person's head spin. Top that off with the fact that industry experts can't even agree (Running is bad! Crossfit is bad! Yoga will hurt you! You should be doing short burst for 4 minutes a day! Personal training is a waste of money! People should be self motivated!) and it's overwhelming, to say the least. When people come to me and ask me what type of exercise program they should embark on, my first question is always, "well, what do you like?" Dr. Stuart Brown points out in his book "Play" that often we can reflect on what type of play we enjoyed in our childhood and turn that into a hobby as an adult. I personally think that the words "exercise" and "workout" conjure up images of drudgery. As Dr. Brown states in regards to running, "Sometimes running is play, and sometimes it is not. What is the difference between the two?...Play is a state of mind, rather than an activity," (2009). As exercise professionals, this should really be the first thing we embrace when encouraging physical activity. As a result, we should stop focusing on the fact that one type of movement/activity/exercise is better than another and embrace a person's individual motivation for increasing movement. If someone derives motivation and a sense of play from participating in a Crossfit class, despite the fact it is not my personal movement of choice, I am not going to talk him out of it (although I am going to strongly encourage finding an experienced and educated coach). And every time I see negative comments by fellow professionals crop up about running or yoga (two of my favorite movement choices), I remind myself that no one but me has to approve of my exercise selection. But I am an educated, knowledgeable professional in the area. Think of how this must appear to someone who decides he wants to begin integrating exercise into his life and, when reading multiple blogs on the internet, he learns that fitness professionals have an extremely difficult time agreeing what the "right" type of movement is. People should be encouraged to try a variety of things until they find something that they enjoy, that makes them lose themselves in the moment the way play does. Instead of arguing over whose method is right, let's work together. It never bothers me when I realize I can't provide the type of training or the type of movement a person needs. I simply point the person in the direction of a professional specializing in that type of movement that I trust and holds a similar philosophy of quality over quantity. If we want to change the course of America's plunge into a nation of osteoarthritis, diabetes type II, coronary heart disease, we have to start working together and embracing all types of movement as valid and good. Our country deserves it.
Yours in health and wellness,
Brown, S.B., (2009). Play, Penguin Group: New York.