GETTING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ON THE MENTAL HEALTH/WELLNESS RADAR

I received an invitation to attend a workshop addressing the mental health of K-12 students tri-sponsored by the local school district, county public health department, and a university teaching preparation program (all located in a prominent west coast city).
The beautiful flyer described the breakout sessions—bullying and cyberbullying, suicide prevention, lgbtq students, depression, tobacco prevention, adolescent development—but NOTHING about physical activity.
Respecting the complexity of mental health, regular physical activity can catalyze emotional well-being (and positively impact each of the workshop topics). From producing endorphins, burning anxiety, enhancing a sense of satisfaction, self-esteem, and positive body image, to sharpening clarity and analytical reasoning, physical activity can uniquely and profoundly optimize mental/emotional function.

One very brief phone call revealed it simply didn’t occur to the organizing committee to include it! Yikes! After a bit of ponder, here is one explanation and its take away.

In general, this region has provided decades of deficient school-based physical activity programming. Of course, there are pockets where it’s amazing, but more so it’s lousy (state policy doesn’t help). The majority of the workshop organizers are products of the local school district, thus were subjected to poor quality physical activity programming. Fast forward several years and knowing these folks, they are overweight and struggle to get ANY exercise, much less sustain a habit. Early positive physical activity experiences set the stage for a lifelong habit, and the sad converse, early poor experiences dissuade subsequent participation by choking motivation. The message is, we can’t afford to provide less than QUALITY school-based physical activity programming.

(In general) This region is now replete with (several generations of) adults who have under-developed physical activity portfolios (‘Iron Footprints’), lack the motivation to sustain regular exercise, and all-together just don’t ‘get’ physical activity, literally or figuratively. Net/net, as the response I received indicates, it’s simply not on their radar.

While recognizing as adults we are all responsible for our own wellbeing, and there isn’t anything that will correct the ills of early experiences, it’s well in our hands to make sure we don’t lose any more generations. Advocate for, and make sure your school’s activity programming is quality. If it’s not on the radar get it there.

BASKETBALL BANNED

March with its NCAA ‘madness’ is usually prime basketball time, but it ran hot during the widely-viewed NBA playoffs and hard to avoid coverage of the LA Clipper’s owner/soon-to-be-ex-owner situation.

Perhaps a coincidence, basketball is also a topic-du-jour at several urban elementary schools of a prominent west coast city, where teachers have banned it from their school’s playground feeling it fosters false hopes for fame and riches and promotes ‘neighborhood behavior’ (social irresponsibility), which taken in sum diminishes the value kids place on education.

These schools have silenced the otherwise playground staple of basketballs thumpa-thumping on the blacktop. Respecting the complexity of the sociocultural dynamics, what’s to be made of the decision?

Teachers are often hard-wired to affect the here-and-now because that’s what they have. They can’t recreate their kids’ past, nor beyond influence really control their future. Teachers have what’s in front of them in real time, which also means a lingering wonder if what they start by way of education will see a successful finish.

The good one’s get this and with urgency run with it, for they understand the odds are stacked against the kids. Even with far more good than not occurring in these schools and (sadly unnoticed) brilliant teaching, similar to other urban school districts, this one’s graduation rate hovers around 30 percent. Out of a typical 24-student 1st grade class, 8 will walk across a high school graduation stage.

Adding another layer to the circumstance, many kids share the teachers’ here-and-now sentiment. Especially in underserved communities, too many kids only know here-and-now because unpredictability is their normal. A successful finish – using education to build a satisfying, quality life is unimaginable.

Circling back to basketball, the elementary teachers who banned it take issue for wondering to what end the kids are playing, and feel its lure of fame and fortune sabotages their efforts to instill the value of education. Since just a minuscule few realize the finish of playing professional basketball, they even more fight the sentiment from the kids that education is unnecessary. It’s also not lost on them that the NCAA trend of one-and-done fortifies the education-as-obsolete attitude.

Surmounting an effort to match the culturally iconic NBA…and the NCAA! You gotta love their… “gumption” (we will keep it g-rated).

It’s pointless to disparage any entity here. The NBA is exploding in popularity across the globe (and strongly committed to social goodwill), NCAA basketball for both men and women has never been stronger (and student-athletes DO graduate), elementary teachers WILL inherit the earth, and kids are amazingly resilient and with but a glimmer of hope and pathway in place ought to have money put on them.

But it is a wake-up call for the NBA and NCAA. No one wants it banned from the very platform that has enabled its prominence. Understand the dynamics and (continue to) message the importance of (finishing) education. This is your here-and-now.

Oh, and you really don’t want these elementary teachers to come calling.

If we build it they will come – IF WE GROW IT THEY WILL EAT IT

The numbers are in folks and the news is good:
a) in schools where it is offered, students eat more fruits and vegetables
b) healthy snacks sell just as well if not better than unhealthy snacks at schools
c) schools that abide by strong nutrition standards are aiding the fight against childhood obesity

a + b + c = healthy(ier) kids!

We can’t stop now. The initiatives in place to improve the nutritional intake of our kids ARE working. We can’t give up. Maybe not the first time they see it, but kids WILL eat fruits and vegetables.

Where it’s being grown, it’ being eaten.

THE OTHER 15 HOURS OF THE DAY…

Did you get your daily workout done? Excellent! Now what other physical activity have you done today?

Going to the gym contributes to your active lifestyle, but alone doesn’t mean you live actively.
Just a reminder that a physically active lifestyle means physical activity is a feature of it. Said otherwise, past the hour you spend at the gym and eight hours you spend sleeping (ok, six), make it priority to be active throughout the other 15 hours of the day.

One, it’s a quality of life thing. Exercise uniquely and profoundly makes you better—stronger, sharper, calmer, more reasonable, more analytical—whether it’s 10 minutes of walking before (and after) a conference call or 60 minutes of body pump class.

Two, it’s a resilient motivation thing. The more activity you accumulate, the more you will want to accumulate from the well-being it evokes. The sustaining power strengthens each time you add to it.

What you do during the day past sleeping and getting to the gym dictates your wellness as much as…sleeping and getting to the gym. Kind of like credit card rewards where you get two airline miles for each one dollar you spend, prioritizing activity during the other 15 hours pays off!

WE ARE FAT…BUT IT’S CORRECTABLE!

It’s official: the world is fat, fatness is now a greater health challenge than hunger, and playing the lead role is none other than the US. Statistically, we are the fattest nation of our fat world. Great. Not a world ranking we want.

Step one to addressing a problem is admitting it exists. While I can’t speak for all 300,000,000+ of us, it works in our favor that the problem isn’t lost on many. So, step two is taking steps to correct it…pun intended.

In the scheme of wellness-degrading conditions, obesity/overweight is a very correctable problem. If each of us took a 10-minute walk right now, in 10 minutes we would be on our way to changing our health-related fate, and world ranking.

Yep, that’s how correctable this fatness thing is. Who’s in? 10 minutes of walking a day if you are just getting started, and then 10,000 steps every day once you have built your stamina.

Remember, with just ONE 10-minute bout we change our wellness trajectory – c’mon, and change yours right now!