“I can’t do PE today.”

Inactivity – on the rise. Childhood depression – on the rise.  Childhood obesity and other preventable health complications – on the rise.  PE notes prescribing ‘rest’- on the rise. Even Dr.’s prescribing long periods of rest in the absence of official diagnosis – on the rise.

We live in a sedentary world. Our lifestyles are inactive and dangerously so. If we know this, why is rest on the tip of everyone’s tongue as soon as we begin to feel discomfort or not 100%. Perfectly healthy and fit adults working out 4 days per week because they or their trainer feel the need to schedule in ‘rest’. Why? Are they completing such strenuous work for extended periods of time that their bodies require a day or two of inactivity to recover? How do we define ‘rest’? I’m not talking about athletes with large training volumes (4-6 hours per day) just as I’m not discussing rest as active recovery or recovery from illness. In all of these situations rest is important for the structural, metabolic, hormonal, neural, and molecular adaptations required for athletic and health improvement. Can the prescription of rest be negative though? For children, I’d say yes. In my opinion, ‘rest’ is overrated and over prescribed.

A few anecdotes from my experiences. Track and Field unit, two 14 year old boys arrive to class, supplies doctor’s notes excusing them from participation due to muscle pain. Soreness and pain which was more than likely due to last lessons sprinting focus!  Racquet and Net Games unit, a 10 year old student arrives to class unable to participate in PE for the next month. The issue a sore hand. Court Games unit, an 11 year old shows up unable to participate for an indefinite amount of time. The issue … Year after year, lesson after lesson, either students are prescribed rest and inactivity by a doctor as a form of medicine or the student’s parents accommodate their child’s request for a ‘note’ so they don’t have to do PE. Is this sending the right message to our young people? As a PE teacher it’s my duty to encourage my students to display and propagate resilience in themselves and each other. I teach strategies for dealing with the feeling of discomfort – in both the physical and emotional senses of the word. I cringe inside whenever a student arrives to class with a ‘note’ and worry that our students are not being expected to demonstrate resilience enough. As teachers we all know how powerful doing is when learning. In my opinion having an ache or pain should be seen as an opportunity to practice resilience not an opportunity to be inactive. Rest often provides a band aid solution and appeases concerned adults. It treats the symptom rather than the problem. I think part of the problem is that some kids aren’t comfortable with being uncomfortable and we as adults often empower this.

A great initiative – http://theresilienceproject.com.au/

Reading – http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/resilience-game/

Picture Credit- http://www.dictionary.com/browse/resilient

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