[This will be the one of several subjects we examined. Look for future posts which will deal with History, Science and Math, Tech, and more]
Did you know that Americans average only about 5,000 steps a day? In the world of health, according to some scale that some smart scientist or doctor made up, 5,000 steps is the border between a sedentary life and an active one. So less than 5,000 steps a day means you just aren't moving very much. It's true, we drive all over the damn place.
Physical Education is a lost subject in American culture. I'm gonna be brutally honest with you for a minute here. Americans are obese. Yes, we are overweight, and our lifestyles do not help us any. We drive to the gym to run on a treadmill. Does anyone see a problem with that? We drive to the grocery store for organic celery, which helps eliminate free radicals that a sedentary life causes. And my favorite, we drive to the plastic surgeon for liposuction, the doctor for tests on our heart disease and health food stores... Do I even need to point out the contradiction in all of this?
The problem: the United States is just too big. It's tough to walk everywhere. This isn't like Rome, or the packed medina of Morocco. Our infrastructure is not friendly to walkers.
Unless you live in a small town good luck walking anywhere in a timely fashion. So it's time for an experiment. The next time you travel abroad don't take the bus, train or other high-speed mode of transportation. Rather, put your walking shoes on and explore the footpaths of where you find yourself. Not only will you get your exercise but you will get an up close perspective of wherever you happen to be.
The best trips I have ever been on have included some sort of energizing activity. I either tried a new activity or simply repeated the activities I love in a new setting. For example, I have been hiking many times but hiking across Cinque Terre and looking down on the teal blue water thousands of feet below large cliffs was an adventure I'll never forget. I hiked for 8 hours up and down through the scattered villages. My body hurt in the best way because all the physical activity led me to some of the most amazing views.
There are all kinds of PE you can teach your kids when abroad. They may not be into sports, but that's ok. It's still important to teach them about keeping our bodies healthy, and part of that is exerting our bodies. Walking instead of riding or taking the steps instead of the elevator or parking in the back instead of the front row are all easy ways to show how important PE is in your life.
Another major part of PE is nutrition. Everyone has different diet habits, but these habits affect our physical habits. Eating healthy food instead of junk food will promote energy. This energy can then be used for exploring physical activities. Taking a bike ride through the mountains provides remote, breath-taking views, but if you eat Doritos and Twinkies there is no way your body will make it up the first hill. Give your kids the best chance at a healthy lifestyle through both nutrition and physical activity. If you do it, so will they.
The best part about our digital world right now is the huge push/trend for active lifestyle technology. Although it is a bit sad that we need something to motivate us to do physical activity, some devices have really proved to get people on track and help the stay in better shape.
1.) Fitbit- This smart little bracelet can be more that a weight loss tool. Connected to another mobile device it tracks your steps, calories, and sleep. This little piece of technology can teach you a lot about your body. It shows you a picture of how certain activities burn more calories than others. It then shows how many calories your body needs to intake. Finally, it shows which foods are high in calories. All of this can segue into more food nutrition education.
2.) Smart Watch- A timeless, classic piece of technology. I can remember fiddling with my uncle's watch when I was a kid. It seemed to have everything you needed on there, time, date, stop watch, light up button, and was waterproof. His was a diving watch, but today there are endless kinds of smart watches that tell you everything from elevation to heart rate to average speed and more. Watches are a fun way to teach all different kinds of PE, and they look awesome too.
3.) Range Finder- PE can mean fun and play while being active. I've golfed in 4 different countries throughout my travels and plan on continuing to add to my list of courses like St. Andrews. Teach your kids to love some of these timeless sports and travel becomes a search for greatness. Although it is not necessary, a range finder can be a fun tool for teaching them a game like golf. Have them determine distances and practice their math, along with the virtues of patience and humility while playing this old game.