Friday, April 11, 2014

Quotidian Work? Make Exercise less Awesome, more Often

Earlier this week columnist Jeanine Stice wrote about the Awesome 3000 and the goal of getting kids more exercise. "[T]he Awesome can develop habits that reduce children's risk for heart disease as adults." (etc, etc.)

Readers here will know all the arguments.

More interesting is the way it echos what might be a particularly American style of thinking in seeing the origins of "habits" in special-event, one-off episodes.  Isn't this heroic exceptionalism and sort-and-separate thinking oxymoronic, even contradictory? I mean habits are supposed to be routine, deadly-dull even.  That's their power. You chug along in them and don't give them any thought. Repetition, not epic heroism and trophies, is their hallmark.

Of course kids can bike and walk to school.  Rather than having parents drive them to the gym, to practice, or special event races, kids could just simply walk or bike to school most every day.

While it might not seem so "awesome," that routine and habit is all the "training" they need for a healthy foundation in every day life!

It should be easy to integrate exercise into daily living - it shouldn't require special clothes, special memberships, special events. We treat exercise with the trappings of the liminal, even! But the accessories should be optional, not normative.

La Dolce Vita:  Them Romans know to do it!
Yield for Walking school bus - from N3B
Maybe if we spent more time and effort and construction budgets on the everydayness of Safe Routes to School and Walk+Bike to School, and less on the Awesome Magnificence and Wonder of a single day's race - maybe then we'd be getting somewhere meaningful. Athletes will still find ways to train and avenues for competition, but for the rest of us, just a baseline level of walking or biking would do wonders.

It is cranky to pick on the Awesome 3000, because of course it's not like it's a bad thing.  It's a good thing! But it is telling that it seems to enjoy a level of institutional support that Safe Routes to School can only dream of right now.

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