Keep it Moving!

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Movement Friendly Cities: Being Active on the Go !

Humans are designed to move; and move we must to be Fit & Active. Our bodies have evolved to meet the evolving demands of human existence. And yet, research shows us that, as economies develop, our levels of physical activity have reduced to dangerous lows. Physical inactivity is a looming and dangerous threat to everyone’s health, well-being and quality of life. This should be a part of our daily existence and not be seen as a leisure activity.

Diseases linked to a lack of physical activity include coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and different cancers, which cause an estimated 500,000 deaths each year in Europe alone. 25% of adult deaths in India are attributed to heart diseases. As per an independent study, the extra costs of Medicare, estimated at €80.4 billion annually, could be avoided altogether if all Europeans exercised for 20 minutes per day on average.Copenhagen 2To make its citizens active, a conscious decision has to be taken by the governments or local authorities to make basic and affordable amenities available to the masses. The benefits of having a city designed to move are tremendous and not an expensive proposition as one would imagine. It will eventually benefit economically, socially,safety wise and health wise. 

A Few ways to keep a city moving:

  • OPEN UP SCHOOL RUNNING TRACKS AND FIELDS TO THE PUBLIC:       With urbanization everyone doesn’t have access to public grounds. Let’s try and get schools to keep their courts and grounds open for public during non- school hours. 
  • TURN THE LIGHTS ON AND KEEP PARKS AND SPORT SPACES OPEN LATE: Corporate life doesn’t allow to run, exercise or move at favourable hours. Keep your local parks bright & lit even at nights to keep them safe.
  • WALK OR BIKE TO WORK, TAKE THE STAIRS:
    City leaders can encourage citizens to be active. Beunos AiresTake efforts to ensure walking or biking is promoted. Widen your pathways to walk and cycle. Many cities offer information about walking, running and cycling routes on their websites. Public access to bikes on rent by subscription or by the day or our can boost active transport opportunities for all.
  • KEEP STAIRS IN PUBLIC BUILDINGS TO BE OPEN FOR PUBLIC USE: Stairs can be more than a fire escape. They’re a great, healthy way to get from one floor to another, but many buildings don’t require them to be opened up for daily use. Studies show that consistent stair use can be linked to a 12-20 percent reduction in all-cause mortality, including cardiovascular diseases.
  • EASY STREET-CLOSING PERMITS FOR NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAY EVENTS : Active cities are often fun cities and street-play events are one more way to make physical activity enjoyable. Adelaide 2For example, Bristol (UK) has a system in place to allow ordinary citizens to apply for a “Temporary Play Street Order” that closes streets to play on a one-time or regular basis. Families love the option and it’s helped to strengthen the city’s reputation as a playable city. 

ALSO READ : Physically Active Lifestyle in the City

  • MOTOR-FREE STREET: Open the streets to non-motorized transport exclusively. These streets can be heavy traffic zones where everyone is encouraged to cycle or take a walk to reach their destination. 
  • FITNESS IN PUBLIC PARKS & DEVELOPING POCKET PARKS:Providing public spaces to work out can be inexpensive, fun and accessible to all. These can be state run training where access to facilities can be for free. Small,unused pieces of land in urban areas can make ideal recreational spaces in urban environments.

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THE BENEFITS ARE BIGGER THAN YOU THINKPresentation

Content courtesy designedtomove[dot]org

Getting sports and physical education right

One question I am often asked is “given we are a country of a billion people, save for cricket, how is it that we struggle to produce world champions and Olympic medallists more consistently?” Some go on to probe further, asking whether there is a rise of a sporting culture in India with so many new sports leagues & events and the increase in awareness of sports and the benefits of being fit.

While it is true that we have the world’s second largest population, that alone does not allow for a sporting culture to prevail in the country. For too long, the culture of sports in India has been one of using sports for other means – a failsafe mechanism for college admission, for a job, for a plot of land, etc. A practice of spotting talent early enough to nurture and grow it from strength to strength so that it delivers when it counts has never been in existence. We are not even talking of modern approaches to coaching, physical training, sports medicine, etc. Some of these issues are being addressed at various levels – but perhaps the momentum of these changes could be a lot faster and the changes themselves more effective. One other issue is that usually the rewards that come in are post the athlete’s achievements and not at the opportune time when the athlete requires the funding for training requirements.

But more fundamentally, to develop this culture of sports in India, we have to go back to our grass roots, to our schools, where our children are exposed to the concept of being physically active. Today, amongst adults beyond the age of 26, only 3% of people use sports or team sports to remain physically active! This is usually because many adults don’t know how to play sports or were not taught the right skills to pick up sports. Nurturing a sporting culture, requires us, as educationalists, as teachers and as parents to understand the benefits of being active, what being active actually means and encouraging the thought of being active as a natural extension of our lives. If we get this right, we can then be on a path of creating the next world champion.

Individual Equipment for each Kid

How is your physical education class structured?

So how is your physical education class structured? What is taught during PE? Is it one ball for 30 children with limited guidance? Do the children know what is being taught and why it is being taught? Are development of social skills integrated into the class? Too often a physical education class is unstructured, disorganized and lacks the understanding of the learning outcomes necessary to the development of the child. In a research paper that was published in 2011 by Dowda and Sallis, they have shown that with right intervention and physical education specialist, the amount of movement and physical activity in a PE class can increase by 18%, without increasing the frequency or the duration of the lesson. That begs the question – how much does your child move in the 30/40min PE class?

A recent study found that adopting an evidence-based physical education programme is hindered by the number and quality of physical education specialists, budget limitations and unwillingness to allocate time for physical education (Lounsbery, McKenzie, Trost, & Smith, 2011). This study was conducted in the US, however, the realities aren’t very far in the Indian education context. Barriers such as these directly hinder PE from playing a major role in contributing to educational goals, providing physical activity, and making a public health contribution. (McKenzie & Lounsbery, 2009).

To approach this correctly, requires a recognition and belief that good physical education has not only health benefits but also academic benefits as well. There is a whole body of research working on how to design and deliver a quality PE class. How can a simple activity like throwing and catching be broken down into small fragments so that a child learns these basic skills in an age-appropriate manner without being overwhelmed. How do you use different size balls (e.g. size 2,3,4) to allow a natural progression in learning dribbling skills in basketball?

Progression of Skill

Designing a curriculum and why it is important to map to standards

The goal of any research-based physical education program is to develop physically literate individuals who have the knowledge, skills and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of physical activity. To do this, the curriculum has to be designed in such a way as to ensure every child is taught skills in an age-appropriate manner to enable physical literacy. Questions one must ask are: Has the child learned the skills necessary to participate in a variety of physical activities? Does the child know the implications and the benefits of involvement in various types of physical activities? Does the child participate regularly in physical activity?

By mapping a curriculum to standards, you essentially test the efficacy of the outcomes of the programs. There are many standards that the curricula can be mapped to. At LeapStart we use the The National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) standards. Therefore, all our activities and classes tests whether a child :

  • Demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.
  • Applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.
  • Demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.
  • Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others.
  • Recognizes the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction

To integrate the above outcomes, the curriculum needs to be broken down to map each of the activities into learning outcomes. Each trained physical education specialist needs to understand what the objective of the class is and ensure concepts and learnings are reinforced at the end of each class. And finally, at the end of each unit/sport that is being taught, there needs to be a carefully designed rubrics-based assessment tool to objectively assess the progress of the child. Much like a ‘regular’ academic subject is taught with defined syllabus, books and assessed in schools, Physical Education should not be any different.

Choosing the right intervention program

Essentially the focus of any good physical education program should be on developing skills, as opposed to drills in children; beginning with the pre-school years all the way through to the 12th standard. A major downside to rapid urbanization is that while a couple of decades ago, children had access to open spaces such as playgrounds or parks, these are now places that are at a premium. For a sporting culture to develop in the country, sports and physical fitness have to be part of the overall curriculum followed in school from the youngest possible age.

What is needed is an intervention program that is research-driven to develop, instil and inculcate essential sporting activities needed for the holistic development of the child. The central idea is for the child to participate inan activity where he/she Hula Hooplearns a skill; that will stand them in good stead as they grow, more so, if they are desirous later on of
Hula Hoop pursuing the sport with even more dedication.

Equally important is that each and every child participates in the various skill development programmes – implying that there is equipment for everyone in the session and that children of all abilities are included in the class. We understand that innovative pedagogy combined with excellence in delivery will result in children excelling not just in academics but also in sports and together this will prepare them in facing life’s challenges. Because ultimately in sports, as in other facets of life, it is all about a test of character.

The public health goal of physical education is to prepare children for a lifetime of regular physical activity. This is not new but getting this right is a fundamental duty we have towards our children.

Dhruv Nagarkatti
CEO Leapstart

< This article was published in the April issue of the The Mentor>