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Sunday, 11 November 2012

Rethinking Physical Activity - new article

The language we use to describe the things that are important to us often reveals hidden assumptions.  It is interesting, then, that so much discussion about physical activity is about 'fighting' sedentary behaviour, 'combatting' obesity, and generally knocking the doo-dah out of unhealthy behaviour.  Negativity characterises so much of current discourse.

I have recently written a short article with some of the leading physical activity researchers in the United States on the need to reframe our discussions of physical activity.  It has been published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, and is available here:

Here is the opening paragraph ...

The use of metaphorical language in discussions of physical activity and health is pervasive. For example, policy documentation and academic literature alike are littered with metaphors, most of which have a martial character e.g., society must ‘combat’ obesity;; it needs to ‘fight’ and ‘defeat’ heart disease;; susceptible populations must be ‘targeted’ and we must battlewith the determinants of sedentary behavior. Such terminology is understandable in light of the evident threats to health and well being resulting from inactivity; however, it also frames the discourse in a negative manner. A consequence of negatively-framed arguments is that they tend to be narrow and restrictive. NIKE, Inc. recently brought together a group of sports scientists, medical researchers, psychologists and others to articulate and to validate a new conceptual model- the Human Capital Model (HCM) of physical activity.1 We propose that this alternative model better represents the full scope of the positive contribution of regular physical activity to human development and well being.

The commentary is part of a huge, international project led by Nike, aiming to encourage a fundamental re-think of our approach to activity and sport.  Anther part of this work is the impressive 'Designed to Move' campaign.

We will also be publishing a comprehensive review of the literature on the outcomes of physical activity, based on our Human Capital Model.  More on this to follow...
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