By Mike Mooney
Like billions around the globe, I’ve been glued to the tube watching world-class athletes strive to be the best in the London Olympic Games.
Watching the games temporarily blocks out my concern about the widespread lack of physical activity among our able-bodied citizens. It is contributing to a host of health issues in the United States. Studies show that obesity and diabetes — both at epidemic levels — and a variety of other diseases and conditions are often preventable with even moderate exercise.
The problem is particularly troubling among too many of our youth and young adults, who increasingly are choosing sedentary lifestyles and empty diets, seemingly oblivious to the consequences. The lure of endless cable TV channels, video games, “smart” phones and a multitude of other options makes it disturbingly easy to avoid more rigorous physical endeavors that previous generations more readily embraced.
We hear and read the alarming statistics every day, but how do we motivate people to respond? The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition dates back to the Eisenhower administration, and President Kennedy declared that physical fitness was not only key to a healthy body, but the basis of creative intellectual activity.
The late SUNY Chancellor Ernest Boyer echoed Kennedy’s sentiment by stating that “all students should be helped to understand that wellness is a prerequisite for all else. Students cannot be intellectually proficient if they are physically and psychologically unwell.”
Boyer’s words describe the holistic educational approach we take at liberal arts colleges and is the reason I find athletic administration in such an environment so rewarding. Even with my packed work schedule, I always make room for enjoyable activities such as golf, skiing and tennis.
Though I support our national fitness initiatives, I believe the best motivation to become more physically active comes directly from family members, friends and figures such as teachers and coaches. If your children or grandchildren or other family members are getting little or no physical activity, impress upon them how serious the issue is for their personal well-being and for their country. If you are not physically active, make time for exercise in your schedule and set an example for others.
I also urge you to advocate for strong physical education programming at all educational levels. Contact school board members and others in educational governance positions and remind them of their responsibility to attend to the physical health of our students.
Let’s view the Olympic Games not only as a source of national pride but also as a clarion call to motivate all of our able-bodied citizens to include physical fitness into their lives to help put us back onto a healthy course.
Mike Mooney is athletic director at SUNY-Geneseo.