As some of you may know, I had the distinct pleasure of co-chairing the recent joint Health and Physical Education Council / Physical and Health Education Canada, National Health and Physical Education Conference – A Physical Literacy Uprising, in beautiful Banff, Alberta, Canada (let’s just go w #Banff2015 from now on though…). I could share a lot about #Banff2015: the 867 passionate delegates, the crazy and fun socials, the variety and diversity of sessions, and much more. In fact, for an overview of the conference, presenters and presentations, check out http://www.phecanada.ca/events/conference2015/program/workshops.
However, it is really hard to replicate a conference on a blog page. I would say impossible. Fortunately, with some collaborative effort from Brent at PHE Canada and one of our keynotes, I can share a video that I hope will make you think about the way you think about exercise and physical activity (read it twice, it makes sense, really, it does). We were privileged to have Dr. Yoni Freedhoff (@YoniFreedhoff) speak to us on Friday morning on the topic of:
Rebranding Exercise: Why Exercise is the World’s Best Drug, Just Not a Weight Loss Drug
The premise of the talk is as follows: By preventing cancers, improving blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar, bolstering sleep, attention, energy and mood, and doing so much more, exercise has indisputably proven itself to be the world’s best drug – better than any pharmaceutical product any physician could ever prescribe. Sadly though, exercise is not a weight loss drug, and so long as we continue to push exercise in the name of preventing or treating adult or childhood obesity, we’ll also continue to short-change the public about the genuinely incredible health benefits of exercise, and simultaneously misinform them about the realities of long term weight management. We need to REBRAND.
Please take a moment and view the video.
I would encourage you to watch the whole 39:13, however, if you want to skip all the research evidence, jump in at about 28 minutes or so for some key points and the summary.
You may wonder why we asked someone who mostly writes about nutrition and weight management (http://www.weightymatters.ca/ – highly recommended!) and is an obesity medicine doctor to keynote a conference called A Physical Literacy Uprising. The reason lies with the way we sometimes rationalize our work as PE teachers and Physical Activity professionals: childhood obesity.
“We need more PE to combat childhood obesity.”
“We need more PA to combat childhood obesity.”
I have even heard colleagues’ state that the obesity epidemic finally makes our jobs relevant and necessary – finally we will get the respect we deserve as a profession because we can FIX this. I couldn’t disagree more.
As Yoni states in his presentation, when we tie exercise to weight loss/control/management etc. we are committing:
A dis-service to exercise – we box exercise in as weight loss instead of highlighting all the other benefits of physical activity: sleep, co-morbidities, mental health, well-being, academics, joy, etc. This aligns with my own thoughts about WHY we need to move. Movement is worth so much more than the box(es) we often place it in.
A dis-service to quality weight management – people will try stupid things when they feel exercise has “failed” them in their goals (ie. Biggest Loser. To read one of Yoni’s scathing critique of that show, click here). Incidentally, this aspect is also linked with the fallacious idea that we need to be “fit” (or at least look that way) to be effective teachers of PE (more on that here!).
From a physical literacy perspective, we need only return to the original definition:
In short, as appropriate to each individual’s endowment, physical literacy can be described as a disposition in which individuals have: the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for maintaining purposeful physical pursuits/activities throughout the lifecourse. (Whitehead, 2010)
I have read this and other definitions of physical literacy over and over and have yet to see weight loss, weight control, weight maintenance or any other iteration therein.
Quite simply – weight loss is not the motivational piece we are looking for to get kids (or adults) active, healthy and joy-full.
Let’s REBRAND EXERCISE and get it right*.
*My apologies to those who already “get it” and therefore do not need to rebrand. Please keep on being and doing awesomeness.
Come on, MOVE me!