Commentaries on Physical Activity and Health -Archive

Physical Activity Policies are Healthy Public Policies

The modern-day sedentary lifestyle, along with its consequent metabolic and cardiovascular complications has now achieved substantial public health prominence. This public health burden is not clustered solely among industrialized nations, but is now observed in developing countries as well. Public health policy has been an important component of health advances over the past century in the areas of sanitation, immunization, work place safety, automobile safety, and most recently, tobacco use. Unfortunately, the application of research to policy efforts toward the promotion of an active lifestyle has yet to be fully realized. [Read more]

Physical Literacy and the Rose: What Would Shakespeare Say?

“What’s in a name?” Is physical literacy simply “a rose by any other name”? In a recent paper,1 we identified the similarity of the terms “physically literate” and “physically educated” and, from a definitional perspective, found little difference. According to most dictionaries, literacy is identified primarily as the ability to read and write. The term, however, is often used more broadly to refer to having knowledge or competence in an area (e.g., cultural or computer literacy).

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Physical Literacy: More than Just a New Fad

One of the earliest mentions of the term physical literacy in an academic journal was in 1938.2 Since that time, it was seldom used until the early 1990s when the term garnered more significant interest following Margaret Whitehead’s landmark publications on the concept of physical literacy. Today, physical literacy is the goal of SHAPE America’s National Standards for K-12 Physical Education.3 This brings it in line with terminology currently used in other subject areas such as health literacy and math literacy.

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Building a World for Free Range Kids

The National Physical Activity Plan is currently being updated, and to some this may seem to be nothing more than an exercise in rhetoric. It could be argued that it’s just adding more words that keep saying the same thing:

1. Americans should be more physically active, and …

2. We need to put in place programs, physical infrastructure, and policies that make this more likely to occur.

The plan proposes to build a world, as it were, where being physically active is the default. As a member of the team working on the Transportation, Land Use, and Community Design sector (TLUCD), and a collaborator with many of the other sector teams, I can say that with this update the plan is taking an important evolutionary step. It’s getting into the weeds and exploring the details of what it’s going to take to actually create such settings. Or in plain English, exploring what it’s going to take to rebuild a world for free range children.

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How Much Physical Activity is Good Enough?

In August, Dr. Ken Powell wrote a compelling article on why physical activity should be regarded as a great bargain – a “best buy” – for public health1.  Yet we Americans largely aren’t buying.  One of the reasons he gives is that there is a mistaken notion that this best buy requires a large commitment on our part: a significant investment with regard to time spent and physical effort (intensity) required.  How did this belief come about?  And, indeed, how much physical activity is good enough to qualify as a best buy?

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Physical activity is the “best buy” for Americans

In 1994, Professor Jeremy Morris, speaking at a symposium honoring Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger’s 70th birthday, proclaimed physical activity as the “Best Buy in Public Health.”1  Morris and Paffenbarger are the founding fathers of physical activity as a public health issue because of their seminal epidemiologic research in the 20th century. Today, more than 20 years later, bargain-hunting American consumers who usually buy anything “on sale,” aren’t buying. For more than 20 years, the estimated proportion of Americans meeting the recommended volume for weekly physical activity has been stable. Little or no change has occurred except when the measurement device or the definition of recommended activity has changed. Americans today are less active than Americans 50 years ago because the volume of “baseline physical activity” – the physical activity of everyday activities – has declined. Most Americans who meet current guidelines are no more and probably less active than the less active comparison groups in the research studies of Professors Morris and Paffenbarger. Was Dr. Morris wrong? Is physical activity not the “best buy” we thought it was? And if it is, why aren’t we buying?

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Oliver Bartzsch is an experienced medical professional with over 15 years of professional experience. With a passion for medicine, fitness, and personal growth, he is always willing to challenge himself to accomplish tasks and especially to provide accurate medical information to people. Oliver is a long-time medical editor for multiple sites. With more than 10 years of medical writing experience, he has completed over 350 projects with both individual and corporate clients.


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