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High School Phys-Ed Horror Story Demonstrates Risk of “Energy Balance”

Posted July 9, 2014 by Yoni Freedhoff

Thanks to Jonathan Clow for sharing this story with me.

So last year a PE teacher at Huron Park Secondary School in Woodstock, Ontario had their Grade 10 co-ed class use scales and measuring tapes in front of one another to calculate their body mass indices. Why? Because his gym class for the semester was to include once weekly circuit training that consisted of ten 90 second stations of burpees, weighted squats and other squat variations, mountain climbers, with no breaks, then a water break then 2 more circuits at 60 seconds and 30 seconds each without a break in between. At the end of the semester the kids were to once again publicly re-weigh and measure themselves in order to see how much weight their once weekly circuit training helped them to lose.

Oh, and he also allegedly informed the kids whose BMIs were elevated to begin with that they would likely develop diabetes.

No doubt the PE teacher was well-intentioned and felt that both public shame and just a bit of moving around would help his students because as far as he was concerned weight is an “energy balance” issue between in and out and that if he just had the kids up their “out”, the problem would be solved. I’ve no doubt too, that his sentiments represent the societal norm rather than an exception.

I’m told the kids mounted a boycott and letter writing campaign to the school but am unsure on how it all shook out. Fingers crossed for the kids.

I’d imagine there are many more such PE based horror stories out there, and if the teacher or school is reading this, perhaps he might have a peek at this meta-analysis of school PE programs which demonstrated yet again (and yes I know I’m a broken record), that kids aren’t going to outrun their forks, or this study that suggests negative experiences in high school PE may well discourage the adoption of a commitment to lifelong exercise.

Bottom line for all of us – exercise should be cultivated and promoted on the basis of health and fun, and fat shaming has no place (or utility) in society let alone in a high school’s curriculum.

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9 Weekly Hours of Vigorous Exercise Didn’t Help These Kids Outrun Their Forks

Posted July 8, 2014 by Yoni Freedhoff

This from a small Portugese study involving 12 pre-teen boys with overweight or obesity who were assigned to participate in a structured 5-month soccer program. The program was rather intense and consisted of four weekly 60-90 min sessions designed to get the boys’ heart rates up to > 80% of their HRMax (and confirmed by heart rate monitors). In addition to their 4-6 hours of soccer (the average boy in the study played nearly the full 6 hours weekly), the boys also participated in 1.5-3 hours of regular PE at school for a total of 5.5-9 hours of weekly exercise, the bulk of which was undeniably vigorous. The soccer playing lads were compared with a control group consisting of eight boys of equivalent age from an obesity clinic located in the same area as the school and who also received the schools’ standard 1.5-3 hours of PE.

As far as what was measured, along with some psychological testing was body fat percentage (by means of DEXA), and of course weight.

The results? After 5 months of genuinely heroic amounts of exercise,

no significant changes were observed for the BMI and percentage of body fat

The good news is that the kids felt better about themselves with improvements to their body image and self-esteem, and I’ve no doubt, they also likely improved their health (blood pressure, lipid profiles, exercise capacity, etc.).

If your kid’s weight is a concern, help it with your kitchens, and then when you’re done washing the dishes, head outside with them to play.

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