Those lazy kids and their hours of exercise

This morning’s paper had a wire story about a study showing that kids get less exercise as they get older. Obviously it’s full of the nonsense you’ve come to expect; the headline I read talked about “lazy” kids, the article says that teenagers are “sluggish.” There’s no mention made of the piles of work and responsibilities that are heaped on American teens, which tend to curtail activity (at least until some genius riding the lucrative wave of the OMG Child Obesity Epidemic invents a way to study for the SATs while pounding a treadmill). The study looked at whether kids were achieving government-recommended levels of activity, which means an hour a day every day — an incredibly demanding schedule for someone with an adult-sized workload.

And naturally, the problems with the article don’t stop there. While the decline in gym class quantity is blamed, nobody talks about gym class quality — specifically, that particular quality gym class has of making you hate exercise forever (or at least until you discover HAES and realize that exercise isn’t punishment). Computers and video games are villainized even though the study compares younger children with older children, not children today and children a few decades ago. And it’s not too bad in the AP treatment, but other reports I read committed the standard fallacy that crops up in every article like this: focusing on childhood obesity as the consequence of the findings (and pushing anti-obesity programs as the solution), as though there’s no benefit in having active kids if those kids aren’t also thin.

That’s all standard fare. It’s amazing we manage to keep the blog running when this is what people come out with; I rarely read an OMG Obesity article anymore that doesn’t read just like some other article we already ranted about. But here’s the part that boggled me:

CHICAGO (AP) — One of the largest studies of its kind shows just how sluggish American children become once they hit the teen years: While 90 percent of 9-year-olds get a couple of hours of exercise most days, fewer than 3 percent of 15-year-olds do.

HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE. 90 percent of 9-year-olds get a couple of hours of exercise a day? What about all the fat children, the ones who everyone knows are so clearly a crisis? The ones who are emblematic of our decaying societal morals? The ones who are going to die younger than their parents? What about those criminally sedentary face-stuffing disease-courting youngsters we keep hearing about? What about the young victims of the Killer Sofa?

Apparently they’ve been out running around and playing with the other kids all this time.

110 thoughts on “Those lazy kids and their hours of exercise

  1. Yeah. And somewhere in that 90% are kids who are developing childhood cases of Diabetes II. Do they make the connection that there is something wrong with the previously established connection? No.

    And the phrase “government-recommended amount of activity” makes me laugh. Is that kind of like the government-recommended food pyramid that made me sick?

  2. Apparently they’ve been out running around and playing with the other kids all this time.

    NO WAY?!!!? *faints*

    And naturally, the problems with the article don’t stop there. While the decline in gym class quantity is blamed, nobody talks about gym class quality

    Hear hear, PE made me hate exercise for about 99% of my school days – up until one clever teacher picked a different sport for us to play each week, pitted the boys against the girls (didn’t want any cooties) and ran a year-long tournament. The other teachers just said ‘run around the field 10 times’, and sat there with their marking while boredom ensued. Bah!

  3. It’s been more than a decade since I was 15, but even back in the stoneage I went to school, studied, has a part time job and was involved in non-athletic extra curriculars, and I was not at all an over-achiever

    Does the AP (or any other news source) have any ideas on how exactly we’re going to add two hours to the day? because otherwise I’m not quite sure how high school students are supposed to do that.

  4. I was so in that 10% that preferred to read a book than go exercise for a couple of hours a day. The funny thing is, I don’t think I’m worse off.

  5. Yeah, when I was 9 I ALSO got hours of exercise a day . . . . because I didn’t have a billion high school responsibilities. Yep, I was so lazy, being in marching band and orchestra and theater and ballet and key club and who knows what the heck else.

    Oh yeah, and gym class? Completely worthless. Everyone spent so much time waiting to take their turn at something that you got maybe 10 minutes of activity the entire time.

  6. and what about the part where teenagers never get enough sleep? I got hours of exercise when I was 9 because I had all kinds of energy and loved to run around and climb trees and shit. No way could I pull all that off in high school when I was getting up at 6:15 every morning (and I have a circadian rhythm disorder that means my body wants to sleep several hours later than is typical, so actually falling asleep was pretty much out of the question before midnight or so) in marching band and several academic clubs. In the winter it was dark when I got on the bus and dark when I got picked up after school by whichever kind person could give me a ride since my parents weren’t home from work yet. By 6 pm I was not feeling especially energetic.

  7. Yeah, I was wondering if anyone pumping out these OMG THE KIDS HAVE ALL BEEN SHOT WITH TRANQ DARTS stories would have a Fonzie-like reaction to that particular stat. “We were wrrrrr….we were wrrrrr…we were wrrrr….”

    And yeah, this making teenagers get up at 6 AM to go to school stuff has to be somebody’s idea of a sick joke. When I switched to an alternative public school I think I did better academically just because I was allowed to sleep.

  8. Interfacings brings up a good point about sleep. If teenagers are sluggish, it’s because they have different sleep rhythms – they’re supposed to get 9 hours of sleep a night, but they don’t get sleepy until later than children and adults, so they can’t go to sleep early enough to get it. Between that and being so busy with school, work, and extra-cirircular activities it’s really not suprising they don’t have the time or energy for an hour of excercise a day – goodness knows I didn’t.

  9. I was a fairly active teen, yet still obese.

    As for gym class, I couldn’t agree more about it killing my desire to exercise. I have had a lifetime of pain from problem feet (which began as a toddler so not due to my weight) and I have never been able to do any kind of high impact exercise. My gym teacher decided we needed to start running a mile every gym class. I asked to be excused and was told I’d fail if I didn’t run a mile, so I had to start running. Of course I soon developed foot and leg injuries – stress fracture, shin splints. When I presented my doctor’s excuse to my gym teacher, she then told me I owed her some ridiculous amount of “walked” miles for the remainder of the school year or I’d fail. There were thinly veiled accusations that I was a faker and that my real problem was just that I was a fat kid, not that I had deformed feet. Being a high achiever, I was terrified of failing any class so I spent the rest of my year giving up study halls, lunches and after school activities logging pointless miles of walking in circles around the track. Needless to say, I hated all forms of PE for the rest of my life!

  10. Teenagers NEED MORE SLEEP. This is totally a fucking fact. They NEED MORE SLEEP. Am I repeating myself? And school is earlier and earlier. My son’s high school day has been from 7:30 am to 2:00 pm. WTF? When I was in high school (hundreds of years ago; I rode a mammoth to school every day), it was 8:30 to 3. What VALUE is there in making them wake up an hour earlier at the time in their lives when they need more sleep than they have since kindergarten?

    So they’re tired all the fucking time, and by the way, since they have very limited access to lockers (so they don’t keep drugs and guns there, I guess), and schools don’t have the budget to have extra texts in class (because, oh never mind, you know), they’re also toting a shitload of books back and forth between classes.

    So my teen, on days he doesn’t exercise, is exhausted when he gets up and then totes and 20 pound (give or take, it’s fucking HEAVY) backpack to school, and totes it between classes every 45 minutes, often up or down stairs.

    But he doesn’t get exercise.

    Fuck you, US Government.

  11. Teenagers NEED MORE SLEEP. This is totally a fucking fact.

    Scientifically proven, incontrovertible, utterly ignored by the people with the power to do anything about it FACT.

    I slept through much of high school, which was 7:15 to 3 (I had an extra class period). In some of my classes I picked my desk based on which one was best to sleep on (we had a motley collection of mismatched furniture, and higher desks are better for napping). For at least some of HS I would still drag myself onto the NordicTrak for half an hour when I got home because I was So Fat TM, but I still wouldn’t have met the one-hour “requirement” those days.

    For a year or so I got to take aerobics in gym, and that was pretty okay. More gym electives would be great, if of course they didn’t fucking beat any love of exercise out of you by the time the electives were offered.

  12. I was one of those “lazy” teenagers. I managed to avoid taking gym class past 8h grade – one of the benefits of being “academically gifted” in my district – 6 period days left no time for both music and a foreign language, so if you were enrolled in those 2 electives all throughout high school, no gym!

    I played no sports, I didn’t exercise in my free time and preferred watching a movie with my boyfriend or reading a book to going for a bike ride. I spent most of my time with the math team, my violin, or the quiz bowl team.

    I guess going to school in a high school that was so overcrowded that we had 60+ temporary buildings spread out over a huge campus so I was often walking 1/3 of a mile between each class 6 times a day – that didn’t count. Or the 5 days a week that I put in 4-8 hours waiting tables in a 2 floor restaurant. Or the half mile I walked to the bus each morning.

    But, what I do remember from junior high was speed walking a 10 minute mile, finishing ahead of 2/3 of the class, and getting a F because we were supposed to RUN the mile. Despite being able to make a jump shot from pretty much anywhere on the court, I also failed basketball because I couldn’t perform a text-book perfect layup, right on the piece of tape the teacher had marked on the floor. I also failed gymnastics in middle school. At 11 years old, I was 5’8″, while most of the class was still 5’1″. There’s a reason why gymnasts are small people – there are actually functional limitations with increased height. But that was never considered.

    Until they come up with a phys ed curriculum that is about trying new things, moving your body, and having fun, no one in the education system has a right to complain about kids’ activity levels.

  13. ditto to teenagers need more sleep. It’s a fact which is utterly ignored by our school system. I had to be at school by 6:35 every morning for marching band practice (note to the government: don’t think marching up and down a football field while simultaneously playing a wind instrument is exercise? you try it.). After school, I had meetings or forensic practice. By the time I got home (anywhere between 4 and 6), I was so exhausted I had to take a nap before dinner. Then afterwards, I had to stay up late doing all my AP homework. I was exhausted All The Time.

    In the case of our school district, the unreasonable earliness was due to bus funding, I think. They couldn’t fund buses to go to all the schools simultaneously. So if the buses have to pick up grades K-6 at 3:50, then they decided grades 7-12 would be picked up at 2:50. Why they couldn’t shift everything later instead of shifting it earlier though is beyond me. Seems to me you’d have far fewer latchkey kids and after-school problems if school ended at 5 and 6 instead of 3 and 4.

    (and to all the “OMG Obesity Epidemic!!11!!! just stop eating and you’ll be THIIIIIIN!!!11!!” people out there- if you are sleep deprived, you eat more because you fucking need the energy. Chew on that.)

  14. I remember as a (not fat, thought i was) teenager feeling guilty because suddenly there were things i couldn’t do well. My back always seemed to hurt, and I slumped a lot. Things that had been easy before strength-wise were suddenly impossible.

    It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 and things suddenly got easier that a very kind adult mentioned that most young teens have a growth problem: their bones grow faster than their muscles, and the muscles literally can’t keep up, nor is it easy for teens to judge their movements since they’re growing so fast. This is why (she said) teens are so prone to slumping, falling, and hurting themselves during vigorous exercise, which is probably why a lot of teenagers avoid doing it. Who wants to run if you know you’re going to trip and fall?

    So I wasted a lot of time on self-loathing for 3 or 4 formative years over something that was completely normal. It looks like a lot of government officials are wasting their time, too.

  15. They couldn’t fund buses to go to all the schools simultaneously. So if the buses have to pick up grades K-6 at 3:50, then they decided grades 7-12 would be picked up at 2:50. Why they couldn’t shift everything later instead of shifting it earlier though is beyond me.

    I never understood this either. And it really sucked for the HS kids when they decided an hour or so into the school day that school should have been canceled for snow… we had to wait while the buses turned around and dropped the elementary school kids back off, went and got the middle school kids, dropped the middle school kids off, and came back for us. By that time school practically would have been over anyway, and the ride home was treacherous.

    Of course, I couldn’t take the bus home because everyone else with the extra class period lived far away, and there weren’t any buses left by that time that would go to where I lived. I had to take the city bus or walk (which was three miles so I only did it if I was feeling So Fat TM). But that’s a whole other story.

  16. Also, who thinks that teens SHOULD have the same energy levels as nine-year-olds?? Who has the same amount of energy as little kids, except little kids?? Most high schoolers are *pubescent*, so yeah, sleep patterns totally change – and also they just become more adult-like! That means no longer having so much energy that they can run up and down the block for hours straight without stopping!

    I feel like I’m going crazy!! Hey look, someone got funding to do scientific research that found that CHILDREN ARE LIKE CHILDREN and TEENAGERS ARE NOT and THIS MEANS OUR LAZINESS IS WHAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICA. Holy wtf.

    Incidentally, on the gym class thing, they let us elect out of gym up to twice in high school, to take ballet with the dance teacher. It was considered a pretty loser move if you were not a Serious Dancer, but wev, I did it (only once because of scheduling conflicts, sadly), and it was the best year of phys. ed. ever. It was not competitive (not that I wasn’t REALLY self-conscious of all my awkwardness and gawkiness in a mirror next to these barbie-doll-experienced-dancer-popular girls – but at least we weren’t pitted against each other). She required us to do floor pull-ups and push-ups and sit-ups for 10 minutes every class, which was easy, but hey! Suddenly I was sort of in shape! It was really my most physically educational year of high school.

    The rest of gym, of course, sucked ass. And the teachers had even made an effort to make it less hateful by offering lots of elective sections within P.E., some on rotations and some just for a whole quarter, but it didn’t matter – the competitive atmosphere, the fact that twice a year they suddenly made us run and graded us on it, the forced volleyball during bad weather (HATE), the locker room bullies… it was just awful. Except for basketball, where the teacher was so good that I actually enjoyed myself (I was SHOCKED). yuck.

  17. Also, who thinks that teens SHOULD have the same energy levels as nine-year-olds??

    Ha, good question. It would be hard to run a high school if the kids bounced off the wall the way small children do.

  18. Why they couldn’t shift everything later instead of shifting it earlier though is beyond me.

    I think it’s not shifted later at least in part because it’s a moral issue. Early rising has a long history of positive connotations in our culture; it’s viewed as a sign of good discipline over one’s life and body, and thus a necessary aspect of our youthful training. That it’s difficult, sometimes painful and possibly genuinely hurtful is, I think, part of the point — we’re supposed to ‘work through’ the pain and grow tough, exert our will over the unruly, needy body.

  19. Well, don’t tell Baltimore City about this study–the mayor and superintendant of schools is pushing for school hours to be 7:30 – 4. You’ll never get those fattie fat kids in Charm City to find time to exercise now!

  20. Don’t forget that many high school students work after school so there’s a real pressure to have the day over early. And nothing trumps business interests in America.

  21. Isn’t this just symptomatic of a bigger problem in American society? I mean the problem of the 50-70 hour work week for adults and the increasing demand on teenagers to put in similar hours at school, work, tutoring, scouts, and even *gasp* sports? I mean, I’m all for encouraging anyone who is capable getting as much exercise as they can/want/need for physical & mental health, but it’s not going to turn everyone into supermodels (who are the *epitome* of health, right?). To me, the real issue is that for a lot of people (teens and adults) there simple isn’t enough time in a day to sleep enough, cook healthy meals, get some exercise and meet the demand of an employer or school.

    Like maybe if we weren’t all expected to be working on Something Productive ™ 8-10 hours a day we’d actually have time to relax, get enough sleep, cook healthful meals and get enough exercise…. There might actually be healthy, relatively happy humans in America (and some of us would still be fat, because fat isn’t a reliable measure of health).

  22. I’d also like to know *where* all this exercise is supposed to take place. I went to school in the middle of the Canadian prairies, where for much of the school year it is dark when you get to school, getting dark when you leave, and not uncommonly 30 degrees or more below celsius, with brutal windchills and snow *everywhere*.

  23. Interfacings, thanks for mentioning circadian rhythm disorder. I’ve been wondering for years why my sleep patterns haven’t exited what I thought was teenage wonkiness. No matter what time I go to bed, my body wants to sleep from 2:30-10:30 (and I’ve sought out jobs that let me do this, because anything else feels like murder) and I never even considered that there might be a name for it.

    Gym class killed exercise for me, too. There were a few years when we were allowed to use a weight room, and I’d usually sit myself down on a stationary bike and work up a sweat–but it was the only time that happened. For me, it started in elementary school; I had a gym teacher who had us play competitive sports, rather than the fun games the kids in other districts seemed to play. I’m still not a competitive person, and it’s taken me years to realize that the exercise I love (hiking/walking) is perfectly okay.

  24. The American work ethic is unrealistic. We work the most and take the least vacations because we are afraid if we’re not doing something 24/7, we’ll be labeled lazy. Is it any wonder why employee health is assumed to be getting worse and worse? Heads up obesity town criers of the US: Fat isn’t the main reason workers are using up lots of sick time! If anything, they AREN’T using it because they come to work puking, coughing, sneezing because God forbid they miss a day of work! Then viruses spread around…and suddenly a whole department is ill. Yet it’s those unhealthy fatties and their body tissue that is driving up workplace healthcare costs!

    Now the lovely TPTB in Baltimore want to keep kids in school even longer. And it’s not just for education purposes, it’s to keep kids off the street. So they in essence, wants schools to be babysitters. I’d love to see how this works in the winter when it gets dark AT FREAKIN’ four o’clock in the afternoon, and Baltimore hardly ever closes schools for severe weather. Then add in that most city kids walk or rely on public transit to get home—so now you’ve got a potential for kids slipping on snowy, icy sidewalks in the dark and trying to avoid the perverts and thugs that come out after dark.

    Yeah, the grown-ups down in ol’ Bawlmer are really using their heads.

  25. And the phrase “government-recommended amount of activity” makes me laugh. Is that kind of like the government-recommended food pyramid that made me sick?

    Candidate for Comment of the Day.

    And another:

    Early rising has a long history of positive connotations in our culture; it’s viewed as a sign of good discipline over one’s life and body, and thus a necessary aspect of our youthful training. That it’s difficult, sometimes painful and possibly genuinely hurtful is, I think, part of the point — we’re supposed to ‘work through’ the pain and grow tough, exert our will over the unruly, needy body.

    And another

    (note to the government: don’t think marching up and down a football field while simultaneously playing a wind instrument is exercise? you try it.).

    And still, another:

    Does the AP (or any other news source) have any ideas on how exactly we’re going to add two hours to the day? because otherwise I’m not quite sure how high school students are supposed to do that.

    The triumph-of-the-will and Puritan-self-sacrifice BS combined with patriarchs’ (and their supporters’) refusal to relinquish one INCH of male privilege in the face of reason (another note to government: Women working at home v. women working outside of the home is NOT INTRINSICALLY an either/or debate – you SET IT UP THAT WAY, YOU PR*CKS) is the quiet impetus of this country’s impending implosion.

    I don’t know whether the proper sentiment is “Deity Deliver Us” or “I Can’t Wait”.

  26. I feel like I’m going crazy!! Hey look, someone got funding to do scientific research that found that CHILDREN ARE LIKE CHILDREN and TEENAGERS ARE NOT and THIS MEANS OUR LAZINESS IS WHAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICA. Holy wtf.

    Yeah. Seriously, what are they expected? 16-year-olds to be playing tag? To be riding their bikes around town all afternoon?

    Because kids aren’t exercising for a few hours each day: they’re playing. At least I think that’s the word we used to use for it, before any activity that doesn’t have burning calories as its primary goal became something to avoid, and “play” had to be called “exercise.” And teenagers don’t–and as far as I know have never–played in the same way as children. Do we actually want or expect them to? Because my 4-year-old will sometimes spend half an hour just running from one end of our house to the other, singing loudly, and I have to admit I’ll be a bit disturbed if he’s still doing that at 14.

  27. I don’t know whether the proper sentiment is “Deity Deliver Us” or “I Can’t Wait”.

    Amen to that!

  28. I’m a seventeen-year-old girl whose weekly exercise runs thus:

    4-6 hours of karate
    7.5-11 hours of tennis
    1.5-2 hours of jogging/running

    And yet my weight is in the upper range of quote “healthy” for my height. Are they telling me I need to exercise MORE? :|

  29. I know why they shifted school earlier. So there would be more time after school for sports. No srsly.

    My school switched hours about 4 times while I was their and the big controversy was that they didn’t want to go too late (3, being too late) because then the athletes all had to leave super early to make it to games at other schools.

    Because, y’know, teenagers get no excersize.

  30. Also, who thinks that teens SHOULD have the same energy levels as nine-year-olds??

    As a teacher of teenagers I can only say, “Whoa, nelly! Not me!”

    What kills me about these studies is that they’ve apparently been commissioned, completed, and written up by people who have absolutely no memory of childhood and adolescence. I mean, I was a bookish, unathletic child, and I easily ran up at least two hours a day of “activity” as a little kid, whether it was walking to school, wandering in the woods, book in hand, skipping at recess or doing errands in the neighborhood.

    Then I turned 12 and discovered sleeping in, part-time employment and moping. Who are the monsters who want to take these time-honoured traditions away from today’s teens?

  31. Getting to school was always difficult for me because I am almost completely nocturnal. And that was when school started at 8am, I’m pretty sure I would taken my GED instead of facing the pain of 7:30 everyday for years and years.

    It took an incredibly long time before I could accept that these feelings were physical and not proof that I lacked some essential early-rising virtue and would die a failure. Now I realize that waking up at 7 am feels like waking up at 2am, b/c to me it really is. Sure I can do it, but there is no way in hell that I am going to structure my life so I have to do it all the time.

    We live in such a homogenated society that it is easy to forget that eventually every possible variation is going to present itself, and that we should try to create a world that doesn’t just cater to one of those variations. Wait . . . that sounds familiar :)

  32. I walk miles as a matter of course, with a bag full of books or food or both. I run around fields pretending to kill zombies/demons/beastmen with a warhammer. When the zombies are thin on the ground I run around fields practising various weapons skills. When I get the opportunity I dance. I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been, despite having had glandular fever this spring.

    Remind me again why I should be keeping track of ‘exercise’?

  33. I’m LOVING that so many of the comments have addressed the perverse puritanism that informs so much of our culture.

    What I’m wondering is how crazy the gov’s mandates are going to have to get before parents finally feel they have the right (and duty, for the well-being of their kids) to simply say “NO. No more.” My kids are school-age so I know a lot of parents of school-age kids. And I have *never* yet met one who was happy about the current state of affairs, universally bemoaning early school hours and too much homework. And yet… they just continue to put up with it, as if the government owns their kids.

  34. I thought high school started so early so parents could drop the kids off before the parents had to be at work. Was that just my family?

    It bothers me that exertion doesn’t count as exercise. I was on the stage crew in high school, which meant during productions I spent 2-6 hours a day building stuff, hauling it into position, and hanging lights so the audience could see the stuff I’d built… but that wasn’t exercise. When there wasn’t a production running, I generally had to walk (2.5 miles) home. That wasn’t exercise either, I guess. *sigh*

  35. What I’m wondering is how crazy the gov’s mandates are going to have to get before parents finally feel they have the right (and duty, for the well-being of their kids) to simply say “NO. No more.”

    I have to say, I’m not hopeful about this. I just keep thinking about Foucault’s work on the elaborate measures put in place in the 19th century to prevent childhood masturbation, involving not merely consent but co-optation of parents into often-damaging rituals and practices of ‘prevention’, with fears over the potential for profound physical and mental degeneration from ‘self-abuse’ stoked at every opportunity by the ‘experts’. I feel like we’re seeing this all over again, just with a new target.

  36. Our school let out at 2:30 because they wanted to start football practice early. No effing kidding, I was getting up at 5 am because the effing football team was more important than a 2000 person student body getting enough sleep. Oh, they were also more important that most of the effing educational programs, as they sucked up something like 30% of the school budget.

    You know, good on you if you’ve got a sport you’re good at, and I’m all for you having a shot at a scholarship. But I don’t think it should come at the expense of everyone else in the school.

    Gym class sucked. Ever play dodgeball? I’m the kid who had Spalding permanently stamped into her ass. Seriously, who thinks giving the popular kids a hard rubber ball and encouraging them to pelt the unpopular kids is a good idea? The only real high point was the 1 day they let us pump iron, it was the day I found out my legs were really strong. We had to run a mile every day, and I always got “lucky” enough to have my gym class fall in the summer months. 98 degrees outside, no shade, and thirty of us doing laps around the football field. Can you say heatstroke?

    I know it may be massively unpopular with the “ZOMG CHILDHOOD OBEEESITY!” crowd, but I say, let kids opt out of gym in exchange for a study hall period. Probably the best thing for over-worked juniors and seniors.

  37. I hated sport at school. We used to get made to run before doing other sports – tennis, badminton, hockey, netball – and I used to complain about pains in my legs, which the teachers ignored for 5 years. Of course I was just making that up… Then I got to college and it turned out that because of how I place my feet when I run (not my weight; I was actually quite skinny at school) I get stress fractures in my shins! And you know what? Even with all that running, the fat girls stayed the same size and the thin ones stayed the same size.

    As soon as I was able to, I swapped sports classes for volunteering at a local centre for people with mental handicaps, which was a much better option.

    Someone should survey non-sporting adults of all sizes to see how many of them had a dreadful time in sports classes. It’s taken me 20 years to start enjoying exercise again, and I still won’t run.

  38. “I know it may be massively unpopular with the “ZOMG CHILDHOOD OBEEESITY!” crowd, but I say, let kids opt out of gym in exchange for a study hall period. Probably the best thing for over-worked juniors and seniors.”

    Godless Heathen, ITA! I can think of tons of options that seem more useful than the average gym class: study hall, an opportunity to leave school early to volunteer or intern, a personal finance course, an extra elective (be it humanities, science, or art/music), etc.

    Gym should be optional, or perhaps it should be mandatory for school athletes to use as pure conditioning time or to work on weak areas in their game (and to make practices shorter).

    Hell, I always wished that athletics weren’t sponsored by public schools at all. In my ideal world, athletics are 100% run by private leagues/organizations/clubs. (But I know I am rather extreme in this regard, and a private system would probably hinder student-athletes who are lower on the socioeconomic scale.)

    Will any of this ever happen? Fat chance. But a girl can dream.

  39. iiii, in my town I think it more that the schools were huge and buses limited, so they staggered the openings of all the schools. I think putting the high school earliest probably DID have a lot to do with sports, though.

    Godless Heathen, I would have liked to trade P.E. for LUNCH! Not having a lunch was the only way to have two electives (so I could keep having a music and a language) and keep taking science and math all the way through. Most of the kids in the upper level classes had no lunch. Some of the nicer teachers let us eat a sandwich in the classroom, but still – real lunch might have been nice! (Not to mention perhaps HEALTHY for most of us, if they’re so concerned about that. Though to be fair to the health police, eating in the cafeteria would probably have led to my eating of many, many more deliciously undercooked gooey cookies… mmmm melty cookie dough, best thing in the cafeteria.)

  40. Sheesh. When I was a teenager, I rode my bike EVERYWHERE. Including to my catholic high school (class of ’78) which was ten miles away. (during the winter I used public transport). I walked everywhere. I live in Pittsburgh, so we have Big Freaking Hills. I was very, very fit. I was also fat. And we had normal (830-3) class hours. When my younger daughter graduated from HS, she got bussed. The bus picked her up at 6:30. Class ended at 230, she usually got home around 315 unless she had band practice, then it was 430. School is 2 miles away or so, she could have walked easily but no way was my kid walking in our suburban no sidewalks neighborhood while it was still dark out. Then she got a job and really lost out on sleep, homework, rest.

    There’s so much different now. We had time to go to our lockers between classes and get the books we needed; she had to carry all her books all day. We had an hour for lunch; she had 20 minutes if lucky. They didn’t seem to have study hall or free periods. And I still think I learned more. Probably because I wasn’t so tired.

  41. omg omg omg, know what else? Grown-up Americans get less and less exercise as THEY get older. Until they DIE!! And then they get NO EXERCISE!! Lazy dead people just laying around all day.

    (However, they do lose weight.)

    On the other hand, fetuses get MORE exercise as THEY get older. This, obviously, is why they keep their weights down compared to other Americans. It’s as simple as that.

    (However, their rate of weight gain is EXPONENTIAL. Like, their body mass increases a millionfold over the course of just NINE MONTHS. I know, disgusting, isn’t it?)

    Clearly the solution is clearly to combine increasingly-active lifestyle enjoyed by fetuses, with the magical weight loss ability enjoyed by dead people. (Without the disgusting propensity for weight gain displayed by the former, and without the disgusting laziness displayed by the latter.) Or, in other words, eliminate actually living so that we can all be ACTIVE and THIN and lead morally-pure pseudo-lives of self-punishment and FOREVER!!

    Who’s with me?

  42. What kills me about these studies is that they’ve apparently been commissioned, completed, and written up by people who have absolutely no memory of childhood and adolescence.

    Got it in one.

    And yeah, I’m another one who was exhausted throughout high school — which was really not a good thing for a child prone to depression, I might add. School was 7:30-2:45, and if you were on certain sports teams or taking super-double-secret AP physics, you had to be there at 6:30. In Illinois, gym was required 5 days a week through grade 12 (still might be, though if it is, it’s about the only state left doing that ), which I appreciate in theory, but yeah, as we’ve discussed a million times… gym class sucks. We didn’t get gym electives until senior year, which would have made it a MILLION times more fun. There were some units I really loved: gymnastics, swimming (despite bathing suit issues), archery… but that was after years and years and YEARS of the same goddamned football/basketball/volleyball/softball/soccer pattern, which was hell on kids who were neither coordinated nor team players. (Hi!)

    The only team sport I ever liked in gym class was water polo — because none of us had ever played it before, so it wasn’t a matter of The Kids Who Practice this Sport Intensely 6 Days a Week vs. The Kids Who Play Once a Year In Gym Class and Suck. As it turned out, because I was very comfortable in the water, I actually picked up water polo pretty fast and — for the first and only time in my life — even outshined a few of the more generally athletic kids. (Though I am still bitter that the taller guys would constantly cheat and touch the bottom.)

    Anyway. So yeah, I was exhausted, lugging books everywhere, enduring a 50-minute gym period every day, working after school for much of that time, AND dancing in my room for hours every night… but obviously, I was totally lazy, because I was heavier than my friends. (Sadly, that is EXACTLY WHAT I BELIEVED at the time.)

    Godless Heathen, ITA! I can think of tons of options that seem more useful than the average gym class: study hall, an opportunity to leave school early to volunteer or intern, a personal finance course, an extra elective (be it humanities, science, or art/music), etc.

    Yeah, you know what many of my friends did to get that option? DECLINED TO TAKE A LUNCH HOUR. Which I don’t believe I ever did, though I thought about it. I took two languages all four years and junior year, I decided to opt out of math (b/c IL only required 3 years) and take an extra English elective. That was the best year of my high school career, by far. But the one thing I never took was a study hall, since they had a reputation as fuck-off periods for burnouts and losers. (Study hall proved you were an academic lightweight, but taking no lunch hour proved you were committed! Ugh.) In retrospect, a study hall could have seriously changed my life — both in terms of allowing me an hour to work on the homework I had loads of trouble finishing at home, and allowing me an hour to decompress from all the “You must show up here and work on this” structure of the rest of the day. But I always, always blamed myself for every “failure,” from not being able to understand algebra to not weighing 105 lbs. to being tired all the time. (I used to go to bed at 8 p.m. in hopes of getting enough sleep. It didn’t help.) It never occurred to me that the entire system was designed to make someone with a brain like mine miserable, basically.

    Anyhoodle. Holy crap, that was a ramble. That’s what I get for thinking about high school before coffee.

  43. My city solved the shortage of school bus problem by making everyone from grade 7 on take city buses. It increased the length of the commute, but I guess it was worth it to start school at 8:30 instead of 7. (And even with the 8:30 start, you could still look around and see a good 1/3 of students sleeping on their desks at any given time. I was always one of them). We didn’t have the option of skipping lunch either (that’s messed up, everyone needs a break and a chance to eat!) Mandatory gym class stopped in grade 10 (and in grade 10 you had the option of taking a half course of gym, which is what I took). Which was good, because I always had a full schedule as it was.

  44. It bothers me that exertion doesn’t count as exercise.

    iirc from reading one of the versions of this story, they had all the partipants wearing heartrate monitors or something, rather than looking at their schedule and determining set times of exercise. So generic exertion, if sustained, would count.

    Sports would be less likely to count because for swimming or some sports, they would have to take the monitors off.

    But I could be wrong.

  45. Yeah…. lol I can’t say much on this subject. I hated gym, I failed it twice(I refused to get dressed for gym. and when I did I sat on the wall complaining about the system)

    I didn’t really go to class much, I showed up on test days… and got kicked out of American History which is a hilarious story errr…. I was a bad kid >__>

    However! My years of skipping class meant lots of running from cops and security guards, walking around the city for hours so yeah I think I did good on the excerise thing. But I was still fat lol

  46. What I’m wondering is how crazy the gov’s mandates are going to have to get before parents finally feel they have the right (and duty, for the well-being of their kids) to simply say “NO. No more.”

    Parents voted for this crap as much as anyone. I’ve read a few studies (NEA – full disclosure) that say while most parents think their kid has good teachers and is doing fine, they also believe that those other kids – you know, the “bad” kids in the school with broken windows – are doing very badly, so the government must get tough!

    That’s how we get utter crap like NCLB, which is reducing education in poor schools to test-taking skills and cramming. Again, full disclosure, I teach at a poor school.

    I support gym, and other electives, being part of school because without these things my kids would drop out in even higher numbers than they do now. However, I see nothing wrong with kids having the option to spend gym class walking in a park, doing yoga or tai chi, or whatever. Not going to happen, of course, because every subject has standards, and a teacher who fails to meet these standards is out on her ass.

  47. Keep in mind that those “new findings” came out one week after the pediatricians group said that maybe we need to give prescription drugs to kids as young as 8 years old.

    Who was the leader of this group? Dr. Stephen Daniels who is also a consultant to Abbott Laboratories and Merck & Co. who produce various prescription drugs.

    Is there a growing health problem in America? Yes. As parents, I recommend teaching your kids to eat as healthy as possible and have fun exercise activities. You just have to sift through propaganda that would have you to believe your kids need drugs to cure their problems.

  48. I live in Wisconsin. It is pushing 95 right now with killing humidity – too hot to exercise outside, unless you want to court heatstroke. (And teens and kids? More at risk of heat stroke.)
    School gyms are not open after school for free exercise or (often) air conditioned.
    A gym membership is at least 50, often 100 bucks a month. The swimming pools are not easily bus accessible, and close early.
    In the winter, the ground is treacherous.
    So, what, the kids are supposed to do jumping jacks in their parent’s basement for a couple hours a day? Really?
    And may I point out, I live in a CITY.

    (And in tangential rage, I was told by a health evaluator that I was sedentary, even though I walk a fair amount and spend at least 10 hours a week in the garden, digging and hauling and weeding and shit. So “exercise” apparently only means running around a track.)

  49. So “exercise” apparently only means running around a track.

    No, no, no! You’re not being fair. Exercise can be anything that involves expensive equipment and doesn’t accomplish anything except to raise your heart rate. Cleaning house, landscaping, delivering mail, painting houses – none of that counts. You’re supposed to work at a physically demanding job for 8-10 hours a day, then come home, eat a handful of lettuce, hop into your $300 workout outfit, and run in place in a room full of mirrors.

    There’s nothing unreasonable or elitist about that, is there?

  50. Defining “exercise” only as expensive leisure activity is pretty damn classist. I suppose it helps insurance companies to charge poor people more for being poor without being explicit about it.

    On a tangent – how many of us who hated school PE now do most of our “exercise” alone? I’m in that bracket, and I wonder if my preference for solitary exercise is a reason why I hated PE, or a result of it.

  51. I’m not sure how I would have exercised more in high school. I gave up dance classes because I felt too self-conscious about my fat. I gave up horseback riding because my stepfather called it “pony rides” and decided we couldn’t afford to pay for it, and plus I figured it would be cruel to the poor horses to make them carry my weight. In my mind I was too fat to be on the swim team, where I’d have to wear a bathing suit, though I had done that when I was prepubescent and less fat. I certainly couldn’t join any of the high school sports teams, since I had always sucked at gym class and was out of shape anyway from never exercising. This even though I thought I might enjoy basketball or volleyball if I could have learned how to really play well. Besides, who ever heard of a fat girl on a high school athletic team? Gym class was mostly not aerobically effective, though I remember actually enjoying the badminton section we did one winter, because another girl and I beat a couple of boys at it! They weren’t the most athletic of boys, but we were still proud. Also, I was too fat for gym class. Besides, if I had done a sport, I wouldn’t have had time to study a lot and get the awesome GPA and test scores that let me go to a really good college with a generous scholarship. But that wasn’t the main reason I didn’t really exercise.

    What’s my point here? I guess it’s just the usual one about how shame doesn’t make people lose weight. And shame about being lazy doesn’t really make us get more active. Shame is pretty much bad all around, actually. It’s funny how the greatest motivator I’ve ever found is confidence and energy (based on self-love and getting enough sleep and food). I had none of those things as a teenager. No wonder I was “lazy.”

  52. A Sarah FTW. :)

    Anywho, just noting that many of the comments reflect my own similar disgust of public school gym. It was mandatory up through

  53. Hmmm sorry about that wee comment…the internet hiccuped and well anyways… gym was mandatory through senior year for me. And despite NEVER teaching kids HOW to run (you know, like tips on how to place your feet correctly for distance runs; how to pace your breathing, etc) we had to do it twice a year. After spending ALL FUCKING YEAR standing in volleyball formation watching the 3 good kids play the game around us. Yea. Sucked. Bring in all the angsty shame of changing in front of all the popular kids and there you have a great environment for loving exercise. Right.

    We only had 20 minutes for lunch. To which I say now WTF??? By the time you get there after the bell, stand in line to buy food, sit DOWN you have maybe 5 minutes to woof food before having to get back to class. Which I was exhausted for after staying up all night to do AP homework until 2 am, sobbing cause it wouldn’t make sense to my sleep deadened brain, getting up at 5:30 to make it to the bus stop for just after 6…so I could sit on the bus for 45 fucking minutes…then band or jazz practices, walking down the hill to my mom’s job to sit in the grocery store break room and do homework in the frantic hope it MIGHT be an earlier night… yea. When do kids find TIME to add MORE exercise?? Oh…and since HS ended, I have made it my motto that “I don’t run. Unless chased. By things with very sharp teeth.”

    I can’t imagine being a teen now. At least we were able to put stuff in lockers!

  54. When do kids find TIME to add MORE exercise??

    Hell, yes. Teens have way more responsibilities than little kids. Even my kids whose families don’t have the money for extracurricular sports and lessons have to babysit and do chores at home. They often help mom and dad at a paying job or cook dinner besides.

    And losing that little-kid energy is an unfortunate side-effect of growing up. I can’t remember the last time I ran around the house chasing somebody with a water gun – I’m too busy pruning, mowing, and digging in rose food.

  55. Just venting here: I’m one of those rare people who enjoyed high school, because I went to a pretty cool one, but it was one of the most physically traumatic times of my life. I got NO exercise except for hiding behind the athletic girls in gym class one semester a year. I lived on Coca-Cola–I didn’t have a body-image version of anorexia, but I definitely had disordered eating, mostly because of being too busy to eat. Slept about six hours a night, if that. Between school, after-school activities, a part-time job, and church 3X a week (don’t ask)–I pretty much continually was in that state of exhaustion where you feel *sore* all the time from pure fatigue.

    And I got completely traumatized into hating exercise for all the usual reasons. Didn’t figure out that it could actually be not-horrible until I was in my mid-/late 20’s.

    *Real* gym class with actual exercises customized to individual goals and abilities*, better food in the school cafeteria, no soda machines, permission to eat between meals (when very busy I have to eat every 2-3 hours) … wouldn’t have solved the sleep deficit, which I mostly did to myself, but it would have solved a lot of other things.

    *This wouldn’t be rocket science and I don’t know why gym teachers can’t do it. What the hell are they being taught, if not the physiology of exercise and individual differences? Facism 101? If a health club wouldn’t hire you, neither should a school. (My favorite comment from my favorite Pilates teacher at my health club: “Ladies, this is ADVANCED Pilates. That doesn’t mean I expect you to be able to do every exercise I lead, it means I expect you to know your bodies well enough to know when you need to modify an exercise or take a rest.”)

  56. I played soccer from age 6 to 16 and was still fat (yes, fatty ran the mandatory 8 minute mile for tryouts). I quit soccer at 16 to work 30 hours a week so I could drive instead of getting on a bus at 6:10 in the morning, buy clothes to fit my burgeoning ass, and get away from my psycho mom telling me how lazy I was. Anyway, imagine it, I had *slightly* less time for exercise.

    I found my love for exercise in college when a) I didn’t have my mother barking at me to work more and go on wild diets, and b) I got college credit for hiking!!! Yay Colorado!

    I agree with the point above… Do people writing this crap really not remember being in high school? I often wonder how I functioned being so tired.

  57. In my high school the gym teachers were the varsity coaches. Their focus was on the team sports and gym classes were just annoyances that they had to deal with in order to be paid to coach. Whatever they knew about bodies and exercise that didn’t pertain to their sport atrophied because they weren’t interested in the rest of us, just the athletes.

  58. When was I going to fit in this exercise between *deep breath* marching band, theater, math club (officer), newspaper (photo editor), yearbook, choir, national honor society, key club, volunteer youth organization (officer), babysitting, handbell choir, school, homework, eating, and sleeping?

    Also, I’m left-handed. Any sport involving hand specific equipment sucked if more than one left-handed person was in the class. My schools just had one each of the left-handed things, so I didn’t always have a glove or a putter (hate golf soooo much). This doesn’t make a bad situation any better.

  59. The whole issue of sleep! I was up before my parents and out of the house sometimes before they were out of bed. And, usually, they would go to bed around the same time.

    As for gym class…why did it get less fun the older you got? We used to do some FUN stuff like dancing and tumbling. But you get to high school and they want you to run around the track? Boring stuff.

  60. I only had time to skim previous comments, so I apologize if I’m being redundant.

    I was a terribly unathletic kid and I hated gym class. But when I got into my 30s, I wanted to start exercising. Not for weight loss, I just didn’t want to be a weenie with no muscle tone. This new found desire made me resent gym class even more. Instead of just playing games, we could have been learning about muscle groups and how to organize a work out. We could have learned about different types of exercise and how to go about it correctly. Or, more importnatnly, how to minimize injury. (We had to run around the track occassionally, but no one ever talked about proper stretching.)
    I actually wrote a research paper for English class on the rates of sports injuries in teens and the failure of gym class in addressing issues of correct exercise techniques. The jocks in class were up in arms.

    When I wanted to try running, I had no idea about stretching, pacing, etc. When I joined a gym, I had no idea how to use any of the equipment or even how to make choices about what to use. Seems to me that if Physical education classes had any real education in them, they would have imparted exactly this knowledge. Otherwise, it’s just organized playtime in which only the athletes really benefit. and the unathletic are shamed.

  61. Only an hour a day, hmm. Sounds like plenty to me, these aren’t little kids with hours to play, teens are busy people.

  62. I was also fifteen about a decade ago, and at the time I was a Girl Scout, was in marching band, played piano 3 hours a day and a couple hours of organ every other day (plus the attendant one-hour lessons in each, once a week), was in a regional jazz band on the other side of town, and read about 10 books a week. (For sanity. No joke.) When was I supposed to get a gym membership? Hell, I had to quit organ and Girl Scouts before that year ended.

    And I did summer gym classes so I could take French and band without giving up the other required classes. Oh, and I graduated valedictorian. (Yes, now I’m bragging.) I really, truly never had time to socialize outside of school, let alone spend a friggin’ hour a day running on a treadmill.

    I also knew when I was about 10 that my parents could barely afford to send me to community college, so I better get every damn scholarship I could. Since I was not even remotely talented in sports, I pursued music and academics. But now we want kids to stop pursuit of academics or music at least one hour a day so that they can — what, now, exactly? Not get scholarships to college, but hey, at least they’re not fat! Except that doesn’t work!

  63. “Ladies, this is ADVANCED Pilates. That doesn’t mean I expect you to be able to do every exercise I lead, it means I expect you to know your bodies well enough to know when you need to modify an exercise or take a rest.”

    That is so awesome.

  64. I don’t even remember our gym classes being that rigorous back in the 80’s. The teacher mostly just screwed around with the jocks while the prissy girls gossiped and the nerds and fatties (like myself) stood around looking awkward. From what I hear, this is a common scenario.

    Why isn’t our culture freaking out about kids’ lack of geography skills? Silly me!! You don’t HAVE to know where Iraq is on a map if you’re thin and beautiful!! That’s the American Way!!

    I need some coffee.

  65. Ugh. It kills me to think that the people who come up with this children’s physical fitness stuff are the same people who liked gym class back in the day. I always wanted to punch those kids.

  66. Yeah, high school was recent enough that I still remember my schedule quite vividly–including AP classes, voice lessons, guitar lessons, running my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, philosophy club, two part-time jobs and an internship. At some point I realized that was insane, so I quit voice and one of the jobs, but STILL. You want me to exercise when, exactly?

    I did get lucky enough to go to a Crazy Arts School, where gym was an elective (that nobody I knew took) and there were NO ORGANIZED SPORTS. They had a set-up with one of the neighboring high schools, so any of our athletes could go out for their teams, but having our own athletic facility was considerably lower on the list of priorities than a huge fancy auditorium, or state-of-the-art color scanners for the computer lab. Point is, my complete lack of athletic ability was never an issue for my social life. (We had our own bizarre clique system based on performing arts vs. fine arts, but it was easier to deal with, for me.) I think a lot of us made it through high school a little saner than average, just because of that.

  67. I suggest biking to school. If you ride half and hour there then half an hour home then you get an hour’s excercise each day. Plus it is fun.

  68. You know, one of my best friends in high school was fat. She was also a cheerleader, a dancer, and one of the better kids on the wrestling team. You read that right. She could kick the ass of most of the boys in school… and about half of them still wouldn’t have minded dating her.

    She was incredibly active. It just didn’t make her thin, oh noes! But how can that be?! (and more importantly, who the hell cares?!)

    I cheer for this thread.

    K-12 phys ed programs should be shot to relieve their misery like the sickly, lame ponies they are. Let’s replace them with a program that fosters an actual joy in moving and caring for a body. You know, a pony that gets fed and vetted regularly and isn’t being alternately neglected and abused.

    In fact, that should be an option in schools. What more enchanting, wholesome exercise is there than caring for and riding an equatable equine? YAY for the Pony Program!

  69. I suggest biking to school. If you ride half and hour there then half an hour home then you get an hour’s excercise each day. Plus it is fun.

    Well, that’s a great suggestion… if you own a bike, live precisely a half-hour bike ride from school, live where there’s a safe bike route to school, and also live in a climate where you won’t freeze your ass off biking for most of the school year. Also, if you completely miss the point of the post. Then it’s a perfect suggestion.

  70. I suggest biking to school. If you ride half and hour there then half an hour home then you get an hour’s excercise each day. Plus it is fun.

    A great suggestion if you a) live close to your school b) in an area with safe roads and bike paths and c) with a moderate climate, d) can afford a bike and safety equipment, e) attend a school with a freely available shower and lockers, f) have enough energy at the end of the school day to exercise, g) don’t need to accompany siblings/neighbors/babysitting charges on the bus, and h) are able-bodied in ways that make it possible for you to ride a bike.

    Seriously, and I say this as someone who walked to high school every day including in 3′ of snow, “ideal” solutions are often just that. I’d love it if most kids lived in situations where biking to school would be feasible — I just can imagine so many in which it would be yet another pressure added to a kid’s life.

  71. K-12 phys ed programs should be shot to relieve their misery like the sickly, lame ponies they are.

    SugarLeigh, I normally love pony metaphors, but this is seriously ableist language.

  72. Exercise is good for brains too though, so I’m thinking we shouldn’t replace gym with academics; but with a recess type option, where people can pick among activities they like. I adored the climbing domes and merry-go-rounds myself, being the solitary type. Still, I’m thinking that just concentrating on brainwork may be self-defeating for schools.

    Our school district is having such money problems that they’re going to close the swimming pool unless the community can come up with an extra 300,000 dollars. There’s all sorts of water around here, a six year old drowned in a local lake this week, so I think it’s a safety issue to learn to swim in this area. We’ve contributed, and I hope they get enough money. You know, I would support mandatory minimum swimming standards for everyone physically capable of swimming in schools. Not for fatphobic reasons, but for people not drowning reasons.

  73. Ah. Sorry, Sweet Machine. I had just been watching Animal Cops Houston so it was readily available to my mind.

    I’ll remember not to use the term here from now on in, but I AM going to explain something about horses and lameness from the perspective of one who has raised horses. Basically just so people don’t think I equate “not being able to walk or stand” with “dying” with any animal other than a horse.

    When a pony is “lame” and “sickly,” it’s generally not because of a congenital defect or accident, it’s because some piece of shit excuse for a person has left them without food in the blazing heat and rain for weeks and months and maybe years, and their feet are literally ROTTING away from standing in filth, and they’ve not get strength left to support themselves anymore (I felt that was a good analogy for gym class… I retain a certain vile hatred for that particular institution, as you might be able to ascertain). Putting these animals out of their misery once they hit that point isn’t a matter of weeding them out of society because they’re not useful, but the kindest damn thing you can do for a living creature that’s been abused beyond the brink of what veterinary science can save them from.

    Sorry to give you the dirty lowdown when I know most people would really rather not hear about animal abuse, but a lame pony isn’t the same another lame animal. When a horse or pony can’t stand it’s life-threatening, because their bodies aren’t built to sustain long periods in a prone position. That’s often the reason broken-leg horses get shot. It’s not some “oh well they can’t make us money as a racer/jumper anymore” thing. What, you kidding? Breeding an animal like that’ll still make you a bundle! It’s a matter of “the break can’t be fixed in a way that won’t leave this animal in constant agony for the rest of its life, and maybe it won’t be able to get up one night and will die from that.” Fun Fact: if your horse has to lie down too long, his organs will get crushed by the size of him (our vet never explained this to me in any better terms than this so I can’t really provide nitty-gritty details if you’re curious). Nature decided this for whatever reason. This is why some horses even sleep standing up.

    IN OTHER WORDS: I expected other people to understand something in terms only another 4-H geek would even remotely think of, because the knowledge behind it was natural to ME so of course the WORLD must know what I’m talking about. SO IN SHORT I AM AN ASS. SORRY.

  74. If somewhere between 10 and 15 is the magic cut-off point where children become less active, has anyone asked whether there might be a biological cause, something to do with puberty? Perhaps the body says to itself (via hormones) “We have to save some of this energy for reproduction now.”

  75. (And in tangential rage, I was told by a health evaluator that I was sedentary, even though I walk a fair amount and spend at least 10 hours a week in the garden, digging and hauling and weeding and shit. So “exercise” apparently only means running around a track.)

    Didn’t you know? This is AMURRIKKKA.

    If you’re having fun, then you are NOT WURKING OWT.

    D*mmit.

  76. IN OTHER WORDS: I expected other people to understand something in terms only another 4-H geek would even remotely think of, because the knowledge behind it was natural to ME so of course the WORLD must know what I’m talking about. SO IN SHORT I AM AN ASS. SORRY.

    Hey, SugarLeigh, thanks for the clarification and the apology. This is a great example of how effect can counteract intention when it comes to written language, and of how context matters in terms of what comes across as offensive or problematic.

  77. Where just like kittens. Hypo when where young. No one ever tells cats of for been lazy when they finally decide to chill out. Fast over short distances thats me just like a cat.

  78. *blinks at Dan* Troll or artistic spam? It’s kind of pretty.

    I dropped out in year eleven. It was drop out or die.

    Linda, you said “What I’m wondering is how crazy the gov’s mandates are going to have to get before parents finally feel they have the right (and duty, for the well-being of their kids) to simply say “NO. No more.”” — actually, they do. In the US, they do. It’s part of the powers of the State, and it’s related to adoptions and fostering; any and all power is vested in the State, who is considered the final authority, and parents are allowed some small measure of temporary control. But the State has final say and can and will reclaim children for all sorts of crap reasons, historically based on the mother’s behaviour.

    This is also, incidentally, related to compulsory schooling laws. A bunch of businessmen needed profit! industry! a made-to-order obedient workforce! and so in America, this great land of freedom and experimentation, they decided: hey, why not? This is perfect! We can conduct a long-range social experiment to create the drones we need!* So they invented schools based on the Prussian model of indoctrination (which they thought was TOTALLY AWESOME) with a pinch of the Hindi religious schools that did such an excellent job of maintaining Indian castes (and they thought that was TOTALLY AWESOME, too!) in a happyfun mix that made modern schooling the hell it is today, and tried to get parents to send their kids. Parents said HELL NO.

    So laws were enacted so they could force the parents to send their kids on threat of their kids being taken away. Some were taken for truancy, etc., and it’s still one of the indications that the State ‘needs to step in’ and ‘reclaim custody’ — if they aren’t sending their kids to school, well, those mothers, there’s something wrong with them! Investigate! It’s another reason why so many abuse cases are overlooked, because truancy is still so strong as an investigative factor, rather than looking at the actual state of the child while in school. So, no. According to the US legal system, your kids aren’t yours.

    Needless to say, I don’t like school much. Never have. There’s something fundamentally wrong about the fact that between third and fourth grade, you learn how to be bored. It’s all good up ’til then, and then you get fourth graders going, ‘I’m bored’. They learn it. How the fuck is it possible that learned boredom is institutionalised under the misguided belief that its education? It’s like asking Frankenstein to masquerade as Betty Boop, and believing it.

    And fuckshitdoughnut, I’m so sorry for the accidental history lesson. The subject of modern American or American-based schooling gets my blood boiling. It’s DESIGNED to make you miserable, because miserable people don’t think or reason or object so well. That’s the PURPOSE. It’s not, ‘oh, school is hell’, or ‘man, everybody hates school!’ or’ yeah’, I didn’t wanna go to school when I was a kid either’, No. Listen to yourselves. Millions upon millions of people are miserable in school for a very simple reason: because SCHOOLS WERE MADE THAT WAY.*

    *No, seriously, they actually said this. Many times. The quotes from the people who invented and championed modern American schooling, and those who continue to champion it, are fucking scary. They weren’t (and aren’t) teaching reading or writing or history or anything, and they KNEW IT. They wanted it that way, because all that encourages thought and independence and maturity and all that grown-up stuff, you see, and they couldn’t have that, because it would screw with their precious workforce/consumers. It chills me to the fucking bone. Rot in hell, Horace Mann, and Rockefeller, and the rest of your privileged white male lot, using your actual REAL education to ruin the lives of millions in the century after you with substandard ‘education’ that does nothing but make their lives hell for twelve years with bonus lasting trauma, and you all thought that was just AWESOME. Fuck you. Fuck you fuck you. Fuck your rotting corpses.

    *cough* Anyway. My pet cause, let me show you it.

    /soapbox

  79. *blinks at Dan* Troll or artistic spam?

    Dan is legit; we don’t let trolls or spam through. This particular comment is just a bit heavy on the homophones and light on the punctuation.

  80. How about we do the SAT differently – DDR style?

    I don’t know, you could, say have a different arrow correspond to a different answer, and you have to jump on it? So we can get teh fat teenz on their feet when they’re studying?

    Why stop at the SAT? Let’s make a program for every school subject too! Find the length of the hypotenuse? Bam! Jump to the left! What does that green light in the Great Gatsby really mean? Jump forward for “nothing” and to the right for “this light represents the longing that Gatsby had for Daisy.” How did WWI start? Step back for “Archduke Ferdinand assassination” and forward for “I have no fucking clue – slavery?”

    I’ll stop.

  81. oh goodness, piffle, i can’t think of anything that would have made me even more miserable about P.E. than forced swim lessons. good god. (also, i find stories of these schools with swimming pools amazing! what a wild idea!)

    lindra, i did NOT know all of that about the origins of american schooling. how depressing! but i really kind of enjoyed [the learning part of] school. i know i went to a really nice school district, and most kids probably weren’t as into it as i was. but maybe things are also just a little better and maybe there’s been a slight change in teaching philosophy since then?

  82. As an Illinois HS teacher…

    “In Illinois, gym was required 5 days a week through grade 12 (still might be, though if it is, it’s about the only state left doing that ), “… Kate

    Kate, it still is “required” but there are a heck of a lot of ways out of it. Kids are exempt if they are taking marching band, health, driver’s ed, a third year of science, a fourth year of math, or if they play a varsity sport in their jr or senior year. My youngest son hates PE and will “get by” taking only one semester of it his whole 4 years of high school since he will meet all of the above exemptions except the sports one. For kids younger than high school, in our district, they get maybe 40 minutes of PE three days a week.

    And, to Miss Conduct…

    “*This wouldn’t be rocket science and I don’t know why gym teachers can’t do it. What the hell are they being taught, if not the physiology of exercise and individual differences? Facism 101?”

    The PE teachers I work with regularly have 50-60 students per class, each class of the day. Differentiated instruction is taught and certainly is not rocket science, but it does take time. They do their best and do have students do individualized plans and target improvement rather than absolute benchmarks. At the high school where I teach, none of our PE teachers are varsity coaches – they all are PE teachers first and foremost, but their classes are full of kids who do not meet the above exemptions (jr/sr with no advanced math or science in their schedule), and having 30 non-academic jr/sr in a class with 20 freshmen is a class management nightmare.

    Before I taught high school, I spent many years teaching college. I decided to teach high school because I had an idealistic view that if I could differentiate instruction to engage every student then they would all learn my subject (science) and enjoy it. The reality of it is that no teenager will like every one of their high school classes. Some adore band and hate science, some hate math and love PE.

  83. Heh… timing.

    Front Page of the Herald Sun here in Australia yesterday was about a 10 year old who entered a body sculpting competition. Before anyone jumps up and down lets make this clear. She eats healthy, is not allowed to use weights or exercise machines and wants to be an olympic athlete when she grows up…

    Guess what the article was about? yup, you guessed it, how BAD her parents were for allowing her to do all that exercise. You know the stuff she absolutely loves to do. Aparently she would be psychologically scared for life…

    WOULD THE FUCKING WORLD MAKE ITS MIND UP ALREADY!!!

    Too fat, too thin, too fit… jeez louise… any wonder why were pole axed half the time.

    (on a good note public outrage was at the paper for daring to publish that story and for saying such awful things about a “healthy active and driven kid” and the photo of the wee lass in her on stage bikini)

  84. The PE teachers I work with regularly have 50-60 students per class, each class of the day.

    Oh wow, that sounds about twice as big as the gym classes I had in school. It must be even more of a nightmare for students and teachers alike.

    I don’t think anyone’s mentioned this yet, but gym class was also a festering pool of sexism IME.

  85. I don’t think anyone’s mentioned this yet, but gym class was also a festering pool of sexism IME.

    No kidding.

    My entire gym class experience, grades 1-12, can be summed up in one moment when I was seven years old, when a gym teacher who was playing “king’s court” with us belted me in the face with a dodgeball. As I sat on the floor, sobbing and holding my bleeding nose, he yelled, “Are you going to CRY now? Are you going to CRY LIKE A LITTLE GIRL??”

    I was a little girl.

  86. My problem with gym teachers wasn’t sexism so much as they always seemed to have obvious favorites (boys and girls) who were naturally athletic and usually played on one or more of the school teams.

    I am sure people here have experienced favoritism in academic classes, too, but I never noticed it in such a glaring display as in gym class.

  87. I was really sad when I found in my inbox an email from my mom linking to this story in the NY Times. She titled the email “Our children, the slugs.” *headdesk* I responded with a very condensed summary of a lot of the points made in this thread. I’m hoping she’ll think back to my high school days and realize I have a point about the scheduling, lack of sleep, etc. etc. that keeps 15-year-olds from being as active as 9-year-olds. *sigh*

    Re: gym class…I firmly believe that grading kids on their physical capabilities is not just unfair but cruel and questionably legal. Who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to start grading kids on whether they could do a certain number of push-ups or sit-ups? Gym teachers aren’t physicians; when they insist you can do one more rep, they don’t really know whether you can do one more rep without hurting yourself or not; they just think you should. Ugh. I only had one semester of PE that was any real fun, and it was my freshman year of high school. Unlike in elementary and middle school, we learned to play some actual sports. My favorite, oddly enough, was football. It was way more fun to play than it ever was or has been to watch.

    Also, LOL at catching these researchers in their doublespeak. “Oh noes! Our lazy, obese children and their two hours of daily exercise at age 9!!”

  88. I have to say I have no idea what gym class was like in high school; the harassment I got in the locker room in middle school was so bad that my mom had marched down to the superintendent’s office and made sure I never had to take it again. Granted, this was because I was physically disabled, not fat; but I would imagine fat kids experiencing harassment had it just as bad. I would also imagine high school would have been at least nearly as bad as middle school.

    But I will say this, I bet high school kids are a lot more active than researchers would think. They probably don’t count the cumulative hour or so every day of walking around the school with several pounds of heavy books strapped to your back.

  89. Our school day was scheduled off-rush hour, because it reduces road accidents and transport congestion to have the kids travelling in lower-traffic times. And then quite apart from the pedestrians, we didn’t have schoolbuses, we just used normal buses, and they would be packed at four thirty (university students) and five thirty (factory and office workers), so in general school ended at around three thirty. This is in Europe, however. I don’t know how the logistics work in the US. My schools (various inner city comprehensives) coordinated their schedules with neighbouring institutions so the letting-out was staggered (eg, the girls’ school let out twenty minutes before the boys’ school; the poor school let out after the posh school). This was also to reduce road, er… well, fights basically.

    I’m a kinetic learner. I think with my hands. Even when I’m sitting down and reading I unconsciously act out the text. These jokes about jumping forward and backwards for a test would have been GREAT for me, I could dance it out. Win! But I still hated PE, because we never learnt anything and it was no fun so I just never went.

    My mum was a PE teacher back when it was still called games, and at home that’s what did, played GAMES, and that was fun and taught me all sorts of mental (strategy, teamwork) and physical discipline. We always did practical or fun things: lifesavers, orienteering, sailing (island dweller). S’more practical and inclusive, too: you can play hotstove in a wheelchair, you can go rambling if you’re blind, you can swim with mixed ages…

    I’ve wandered. Uh. Oh, point being, PE clearly isn’t about learning physical skills or fostering ability, it’s about teaching you to surrender control of your body to authority. If it were it would be teaching practical, environment-focused things like the aforementioned orienteering, car-dodging for city kids, lifesavers for coastal kids, self-defense…

  90. “i did NOT know all of that about the origins of american schooling. how depressing! but i really kind of enjoyed [the learning part of] school. i know i went to a really nice school district, and most kids probably weren’t as into it as i was. but maybe things are also just a little better and maybe there’s been a slight change in teaching philosophy since then?”

    Lynne, google John Taylor Gatto. And when you’re done with him, perhaps John Holt.

    Real learning does happen in schools of course — especially for people who thrive under its specific type of structure, whose educational goals just happen to by in sync with the school’s, and with the support of gifted teachers. But everything I’ve heard from friends who are teachers, including those who have their MAs (two working on doctorates) in educational theory, the teaching philosophy advocated for and propagated by the system itself has not changed, no. They know that I’m interested in educational theory, and so sometimes lend me their textbooks, so I’ve seen it for myself as well. There’s nothing progressive happening in mainstream education today. The educational reform movement of the ’70’s was abandoned for a very simple reason — it wasn’t compatible with our culture’s work ethic, in which production is the goal, rather than passion, freedom, and critical thinking.

  91. I find it interesting that these studies always blame TV, computers, and video games but never mention that reading, studying, doing homework, and sitting in class are just as sedentary.

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