I had a chance to speak with Dr. Ed Thomas(that's him speaking in the video) for what was supposed to be a short interview on physical fitness and its impact on American Culture as research for a book I'm currently writing, but turned into a nearly two hour discussion as I was blown away by the depth and breadth of his knowledge on the subject. Regarding fitness, Dr. Thomas said he thought over 80% of children didn't know how to move well. That is to say, over 80% of children are not athletic, or physically fit.
"Think of it," he said, "Where do children learn to move? From their parents. We have a nation of parents who can't do anything themselves, and as a result we have clumsy, awkward kids."
Following is one of the most profound things he said in our discussion. "Kids who can't move well, don't."
What does that mean? You know exactly what it means. If you were the awkward kid who couldn't catch a ball, how much did you love gym class where you were singled out as the only kid who couldn't hit a ball with a bat? or catch the dodgeball as it came at your head? or the last kid picked, left slouching, hiding, against that padded wall? Did that make you love exercising? Did you love your body? Did you dedicate even MORE time to getting better at catching the ball? or running? or whatever physical skill? Heck no. You spent time getting better at the things you were good at: school, reading, maybe beating down the jocks at a good video game. But you let your movement go unaddressed. . .
If we want to fight the horrid childhood obesity statistics, movement must addressed. Getting a kid from clumsy to athletic can be taught. I repeat, in bold: Athleticism can be taught. You're not "born" a good runner. You're not "born" physically fit. Yes, you're born short or tall (I know more about this than most), with maybe a more muscular or skinnier build , but the ability to be graceful in whatever physical movement you perform was learned.
Fitness must be addressed head-on, and in early childhood. Don't wait until a child is a clumsy, overweight teenager and then say they should go in the ego-filled gym to pump weights to get rid of the chub. That makes no sense. It's harder that way. Instead, raise up a kid so that he / she has every opportunity to move, and they'll probably love moving, and move a lot.
In worse case scenarios, when a kid hasn't moved well for a long time; bring them to someone who can help diagnose the problem and get it better, one on one, in a specialized manner, free of the gym-class mentality. Trust me, I know; I used to be that chubby kid. Being able to move is one of life's greatest gifts that all should have the opportunity to enjoy.