Recently a colleague and I pondered what things were like thirty years ago in the fitness industry and what has changed. One thing we both remarked on was the emphasis on physical fitness in schools at that time made getting people involved with fitness in general much easier. There was the very active and popular Presidential Fitness Challenge, which is happily still going, but unhappily does not receive the same focus as in the past. There were always healthy challenges to raise awareness about diseases that exercise could help prevent or reduce the risk of, such as Jump-Rope-For-Heart through the American Heart Association among others. Although many of these programs are still active they don’t carry the same weight without a dedicated daily connection to physical education. Now factor in technology, another of the greatest changes affecting most aspects of life these days, with so many diversions and distractions, and we have a tremendous challenge getting youth and their families and adults in general to turn off the electronics and tune in to exercise. So how do we do it?
As technology continues to develop, one obvious way video game and console makers attempt to address this is through the design and manufacture of games that require actual movement with our bodies controlling the games. This is good, but it is not the same as rigorous, sustained outdoor play or exercise. With youth and adults, exercise does not have to be formal or look like a “workout” to be good for you. Grabbing a basketball and shooting around for an hour, chasing a soccer ball around a field, playing Frisbee or even a game of tag can be great ways to get the benefits of exercise while spending quality time with family and friends. There is a secret in this association of play with the typical “work” we think of when we ponder exercise. There is a fact of human nature that is difficult to avoid and that is that for most of us if we do not enjoy something even a little, we are not likely to continue it. Making FUN a part of any activity makes the benefit greater and the likelihood of repeating the activity.
In the fitness industry, we are working to find fun ways to get youth, families and adults involved with recreation, sport and exercise in new ways. There are brands and trends in the industry that are wildly successful and illustrate this concept of making movement more fun through dance, music, rapidly changing from one mode of exercise to another or applying foot speed and cardio work to getting through obstacle courses and more. There are many ways to get the benefits of exercise through movement and there is much research to suggest the more we move, the more we want to move and the more we move together the more we enjoy it. Active is as active does, now activate!