Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Poor Use of Physical Education

You never know what conversation will come up when you are with family. For some reason we mentioned the Presidential Fitness Awards from elementary school, possibly from watching my nephew shoving his feet into his mouth.

For those of you who didn’t have a school participating in this program let me give you a run down. Every spring and fall everyone in school was tested in a variety of activities that supposedly demonstrated your fitness in particular areas. There were tests for pull-ups, sit-ups (curl ups now), spiriting, flexibility, and the mile run. If you did all of them at or above the supposed fit level you got a certificate saying so. There was also  National Fitness Awards which were a little bit easier to get.

No one in my family ever got one. My eldest brother was the most athletic of us all and he could never get past the flexibility test for even the National Award. The test was called the v-sit reach and involved sitting on the floor with you feet against a template about a foot and a half apart (probably two feet for an adult) and you had to reach past you feet. National needed only one or two inches but no one in my family could get past their feet.

These tests were the most hated part of the year for just about everyone. Even the kids that could do it didn’t particularly enjoy it. Sure, they got everyone congratulating them on a good job but there were al lot of more fun things that we could be spending time doing.

What really strikes me now as I attempt to better my physical fitness is how poorly they tried to prepare us for the test. It wasn’t like they tested you in the fall and tried to better your scores over the year so that you did better during the spring test. Particularly as you got older you just did the test occasionally and that was that, I mean we continued doing it as we got into middle and high school, only noticeable because one and a while you would be forced to run a mile out of the blue, the only warning coming in winter when they would tell you to remember your sweatshirt the next day.

How hard would it have been to encourage us to actually attempt to exercise in between times? They did send us workout sheet occasionally so we would work out at home, but they never connected it to a reward, never attempted to make it a friendly competition. Maybe it was people scared to upset the children, but I think that they might have gotten me to play along if they had pointed out that I could get a better fitness score.

Maybe this is why we are such an obese nation, instead of trying to make us physically fit they had us play basketball endlessly.

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