Thursday, February 07, 2013

Guest Post: Will Organized Sport in Childhood Spell the End of Self Directed Adult Exercise?

Two weeks ago I received an extremely kind and thoughtful email from Maureen McVicar, physiotherapist and ACSM Clinical Exercise Specialist with the Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Health in Motion Program in Nova Scotia.

I'll post her email below, but the question she's asking is thought provoking. What she's wondering is whether the rise of organized exercise in childhood and the consequent fall of spontaneous play will lead today's children to have greater difficulty undertaking self-directed exercise as adults?

Looking forward to your thoughts and comments.
Hello Yoni-

I so enjoy your Weighty Matters blog. Met you at NB Heart Symposium in 2011 - your thoughts never cease to intrigue and interest me. I work with an adult population in a cardiac rehab setting. A patient's comment to me yesterday got me thinking. Yesterday, I referred to your blog of Jan 21st during my exercise class cool-down. It stimulated some conversation and one gentleman posed the question of "what happens to all these kids who we shuffle from team sport to team sport when they become adults? Do they even exercise on their own anymore? " It got me thinking about me and my own kids...and about the value of individual play and activity.

I'm wondering if, in your own readings, you have any answer to what happens to those children whose experience with exercise has occured only on a team? Those who have never needed to make a decision on their own about physical activity because their activities are efficiently scheduled by parents months in advance? Are there any studies to suggest that motivation to exercise at a later age may be affected in these cases? Do they have a personal drive to exercise or was the motivation externally driven?

I wonder because I think about myself and my own long-standing personal belief that I would be the world' s best eater if only I had someone come and make the choices for me (and prepare the meals too!). Perhaps same goes for exercise too.

I played on teams as a child, not to the extent that today's kids played on teams. By high school, my studies took precendent and through these years, due to studies and an hour commute to high school, no team sport occurred. Did I exercise? Well, back then I would have said no. Now looking back, I vividly remember that YES I DID!!! Homework after dinner each weeknight was followed by dancing in our rec room to the top 6 at 6pm on the radio (it was '80's after all - you can only imagine the calorie burn). I was totally excceding the exercise guidelines of the day without even knowing it!!! Even now, it's still my preferred mode of exercise. I wonder then that if I had to rely on team sport, would I even find a good option now? Certainly, choices become more limited as I age.

So in the end, I'd be interested what you think. Are we "balancing" our kids enough and giving them an internal drive to be active? Thanks for listening...

Maureen McVicar, PT
ACSM Clinical Exercise Specialist
Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Health in Motion Program, CDHA