As some of you may know, I had the distinct pleasure of co-chairing the recent joint conference2015_CMYKHealth 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

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 ( – 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.47158_150773548281336_8366218_n-1

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.

12 responses to “Rebranding”

  1. Claudia T Brown Avatar
    Claudia T Brown

    Thank you for your great work! It is this belief in what we do as physical educators and the spirit to continue moving forward that lifts our students to be better than they think they are.

    1. dgleddie Avatar

      Thanks for your kind words Claudia.

  2. MrBridge204 Avatar

    Reblogged this on mrbridge204 and commented:
    Rebranding Exercise: This keynote by Dr. Freedhoff at the 2015 PHE Canada was absolutely a highlight of the weekend.

  3. andy vasily (@andyvasily) Avatar

    Doug, thanks for the post. I draw attention to the part in the blog post where you say:

    “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.”

    I get annoyed, perplexed, and frustrated when I hear and see similar statements about the obesity epidemic being thrown around on social media. Our jobs have always been incredibly relevant and necessary. As Dr. Yoni states, we are committing a huge injustice and disservice when the focus of exercise and our PE programs becomes weight loss and weight control.

    There are many PE teachers and districts who argue that the number one reason to increase PE time is to fight obesity. As educators, the conversations that we need to have should be about how we can intrinsically motivate our young learners to be active for life. The focus should obviously be on students understanding the positive effects of exercise and physical activity on their social, emotional, and psychological well-being.

    I didn’t have time to see Dr. Yoni’s talk, but will definitely set some time aside this weekend to watch it. Thanks for sharing Doug.

    1. dgleddie Avatar

      Thanks Andy – you are one of the ones that “gets it”! Stay awesome.

  4. slowchatpe Avatar

    I stand by my examples of hypocrisy in my blog response to you!! If exercise was a pill it would be the number one selling pill in the world. We definitely need to unhitch our wagon from the obesity train and start selling movement for all the reasons you list in your blog. The 21st century physical education teacher needs to embrace this movement whole heartedly!

    1. dgleddie Avatar

      What do you mean “examples of hypocrisy”? Your “pastor on crack” lines from the fit PE teacher post?

      1. jschleider Avatar

        Pastor on drugs!! Hahah

      2. dgleddie Avatar

        Right. Still not sure all of those are accurate. My pastor is an alcoholic. But he is definitely NOT a hypocrite!

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