Working on some down time with the family for the next couple of weeks, striving for some of that elusive work/life balance. Speaking of elusive, ways for each of us to get more daily physical activity is one of our biggest struggles. Personally, I am motivated in staying strong for my family and decrease the effects of aging…daily activity has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Even if it means simply going to the park for 15 minutes, or running some sprints on the hotel treadmill or even in the hotel hallways- I am motivated to stay physically strong. But many are not. That motivation is elusive and so is daily activity for kids and adults alike in 2011….but we need it more than ever.
We all need little push now and then, and although the issue of lack of activity is well documented, there seem to be few “little pushes” happening to get people moving. Life is busy, life is hectic and many are just keeping their lips above the water line. It is time for solutions.
2 recent articles up here in Canada, have highlighted some different perspective’s in our battle to be more active.
One article (see below link) talked about how it was a total waste of time for the government to implore parents to focus on getting their kids more active. The article called out Participaction, a government agency in place to promote a more active lifestyle, for marketing through their ads that parents need to take a more active role in getting their kids more active. I am convinced parents are not sure how, meanwhile our kids spend more time in front of the screen.
The 2 nd article from Canada’s west coast reported on a program where a local health organization had partnered with a gym chain to provide free workouts for those patients waiting on surgery, in order to increase their ability to recover quicker and better.
Both articles are terrific to get people talking about the tremendous need we are faced with to get more active. However, one focuses on blame and the other is actually bringing forth a solution.
I would venture to say that bringing forth solutions is critical for our collective productivity to improve.
It is well documented that our adult population has never been more out of shape. Our kids, the next generation of parents, are equally under par in health and fitness.
According to IHRSA( International Health and Racquet, Sport Association) , fitness clubs are populated by 10-12% of the population. Of those 10-12%, a very small percentage regularly go to fitness clubs. That outlet is not working very well in getting people more active, even though it represents a thriving and in demand industry.
Congratulations to the Fraser Health Authority in British Columbia for trying to figure out a way to get more people the benefits they need to face surgery, through regular activity. Congratulations to the Steve Nash Fitness Clubs for trying to find a way to get the people that need their services the most into their facilities. More pats on the back go out to Good dLife Fitness who recently offered free access to kids during the summer months, even if they were not members. These are attempts are solutions . Only time will tell if they are sustainable, but they are solutions.
Thumbs down to people that spend their time criticizing marketing to encourage parents get more involved in more daily activity for our kids.
So the articles both, in their own way, bring up the question – how do we get more people active? How can we get ourselves and our kids to the point of enjoying the benefits of regular physical activity?
With so few solutions being brought forward , I thought a few “little pushes” might help get things moving. So here are 8 initiatives to get more people of all ages active, so they can enjoy a better, more energetic, pain free lifestyle.
These are not the only initiatives of course, but it touches on implications for all levels of government, schools, and industry. At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own health, but it is very obvious that we need some help in figuring out how to accomplish this. Perhaps that “little push” will come from parents, or coaches, or work colleagues, or the town we live in , or teachers, or …does it matter? Here are some solutions, I challenge you to add to them….
So here are the 8 steps to making a difference in delivering daily actvity:
1. 1. Reward those people who are active. If the government is looking for ways to promote activity, they have started a good thing with tax breaks for kid’s sports participation. This needs to be stepped up to include a wider range of activities for a wider range of age levels . Tax breaks are a nice incentive, and it would not be hard to bring together some industry leaders on specific starting points.
2. 2. Get daily activity back into the schools. Years ago when I was teaching school in the early 90’s , there was a movement to take out daily physical activity from the curriculum. It is now time to put it back into the same curriculum. It will not be enough to simply put it back in, but provide teachers with a simple certification process on youth fitness. Understanding the benefits of simple games like tag to physical and mental development, with specific progressions are not complicated. However a simple, easy to follow program can make these opportunities productive and beneficial for all concerned. Organizations like schoolfit.ca are focused exactly on these concepts, so activities that destroy self-esteem are not part of activity time.
3. 3. Professional health care associations should collaborate to work with the fitness industry to bundle services, and government can have a role in making sure these services are available under workplace benefits programs, for example. Up until now, with only a small % of people going to fitness clubs, the fitness industry is failing miserably. The health care community is focused on the reactive. Why not create incentives for proactive to work with the reactive side? Many people will say this is not possible, however, there are groups like STAK Fitness Int’l Inc. are working on this very concept.
4. 4; If tax incentives are of interest, why limit them to consumers? Corporations could be provided with additional incentive to get their workforce moving. Increased fitness and daily activity is proven to benefit everyone, in productivity, less absenteeism and employee turnover. As a business owner, I know that workplace benefit expenses are shared by the employer and employee…why could that not apply to an application to daily fitness?
5. 5. Sports associations need to incorporate fitness and nutrition education into their coaches (and parent’s education) certifications. As a youth coach for years, I am stunned at how little coaches are taught on nutrition, hydration and preparing their kids bodies for the demands of their activities. (parents have a lot to learn here as well, having a working knowledge in these areas needs to be part of the pre-requisites to play)
This education can be led by local community fitness groups, and organizations can be rewarded to implement this assistance.
6. 6. Help the school boards open up their facilities to parents and community members and become the health and fitness hubs in their region. Enough already on these facilities not being used in the summer and evenings !!! Fitness professionals in every community are starving for opportunities to lead fitness classes. With proper standards and accreditation, parents and kids can have an outlet to get moving.
7. 7. Municipalities can start promoting activities in the community, using parks/facilities and providing some fitness leadership. In the community where I live, one local fitness pro invests a ton of time in promoting and leading a community endorsed initiative focused on getting people moving. I get the feeling, however, that increasingly he is trying to push a big rock uphill, and not getting a ton of support. Initiatives like this are another way of making daily activity a bigger part of our lives.
8. 8.Fitness industry needs to continue to push opportunities for people to find ways to integrate fitness into our daily lives. As a busy business person, with a family, my fitness routine consists 10-20 minute workouts wherever I am located with whatever tools I can find . I refer to this as “fitness integration” , as in integrated activity into your day. (as mentioned earlier, the current “fitness interruption” of finding time for a 90 minute workout method is not working).
As a side note, tax deductible fitness memberships could be part of a solution, but fitness services would need a standardized way to track participation. It is participation that needs to be rewarded, not only spending on fitness.
There are lots of other initiatives, these are just a few. There are also spinoff initiatives that could help. For example, when will t he food industry figure out that healthy food education is a good business move?? Like home renovation companies who provide ‘how to’ sessions, food and grocery stores can do the same in promoting healthy eating. As a fitness professional, I am amazed at what people do not know about nutrition and the simple steps to make healthy eating a priority. I am also amazed at how little the food industry is doing to help this cause.
It is easy to criticize government trying to push people to be more active. It would be much more productive to provide ways that we can get more activity into our daily lives. At least the government is doing something that is worthy of being criticized.
The Fraser Health Authority is trying to find a solution, and the Steve Nash clubs are trying…..what can the rest of us do? The consequences of not doing anything are too great.
Greg Lawlor completed his B.Ed. and M.A. in Phys. Ed at McGill University, he is a former school teacher, and currently a fitness entrepreneur and youth coach. He currently is on the board of advisors to SchoolFit.ca and is Chief Customer Officer at STAK Fitness Int’l Inc. a fitness supply and education company. More about greg atwww.greglawlor.com