A Little More Transformation to Go Around
The essence of my book, Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time, is that we must transform our focus in promoting physical activity. We need to move beyond persuading individuals to allocate their precious leisure time to active recreation. We also need to convincing leaders of the organizational benefits and competitive advantages of integrating brief bouts of activity into the routine "conduct of business." Our framing of the value of physical activity needs to shift from weight loss and "no pain, no gain" inducements to the immediate gratification of fun, stress relief, mood enhancement and entitlement to not be cooped up for hours on end.
Of course, public health and medical professionals are the primary audience, but journalists are also in the mix. In fact, in Chapter 4 of my book, "The real gatekeepers," I extol the virtues of journalists, their skills and creativity in communicating, their power to reach into so many segments of society. I discuss how much my work has benefitted from their coverage and engagement, and how critical they are to my realizing my goal of making prolonged sitting as socially unacceptable as smoking or driving and drinking. It's particularly fitting that I write this post the day after Jane Brody capped off the many wonderful stories that have been written and recorded about the Instant Recess book and concept over the past year with her quintessential insight and pragmatism in a column about Instant Recess.
But fitness journalism could also use a little transformation. Rather than "selling miracle cures" -- huge lifestyle changes daunting to most people, and extremely rare cases of success that few will achieve -- how about focusing on the small changes we can manage collectively, and telling stories about the champions of those changes? (I call them "sparkplugs" in my model for how this physical activity movement could roll out.)
And how about giving a little more air time to how people are addressing the barriers and navigating the obstacles, rather than so much time to the challenges and problems themselves? For example, in Chapter 5 I profile the organizational wellness policies adopted by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, a black sorority founded on at the historically black Howard University in 1913. Delta Sigma Theta is now on most college campuses and with graduate chapters in most major cities. Their centerpiece physical activity promotion policy is to incorporate 10-minute simple and structured activity bouts to music, or Instant Recess breaks, whenever and wherever they gather. The Deltas turn up the air conditioning in their meeting rooms 15 minutes before their activity breaks to minimize perspiration and damage to some members' expensive and hard-to-maintain 'do's. Unbeknownst to many, the number one reason teen girls (not to mention many adult women, especially in ethnic groups with curly or kinky hair) give for not wanting to participate in physical activity is "messing up their hair and make-up."
You can find an excerpt of Instant Recess at Google Books.