Although awareness of the importance of physical fitness has increased in the United States, the average level of an American"s fitness has decreased. In short, most everyday citizens are out of shape. This is partially due to the more modern and easier lives that most Americans lead compared to Americans of earlier time periods. If Americans wish to stay in good health, then their daily regiments must be changed.
Among adolescents and teenagers, the
same numbers are noticeable. Nearly fifty
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percent of American youth aged twelve
through twenty-one are not vigorously active
on a regular basis. Only nineteen percent of
all high school students are physically active
for more than twenty minutes or more, five
days a week, mainly in physical education
class (Physical Activity and Health:
Adolescents and Teenagers, par. 5-8).
These numbers are a significant drop from previous studies of earlier decades. When physical fitness reform was stressed in schools during the fifties, the government administered several test to get an exact figure on American children"s level of fitness. The United States office of Education discovered that in one year fifty-six of 108,000 public schools had strengthened their physical education programs. These modifications were noticed. Between 1964 and 1965, 11,000 boys and girls who took the Youth Fitness test had higher mean scores in every event and at all ages than the results recorded from the previous decade"s tests (Van Dalen 520-521).
Although modern, well-designed school-based interventions directed at increasing physical activity in physical education classes have been shown to be effective, only twenty five percent of high school students enroll in physical education class daily. In 1991, forty-one percent of all high school students enrolled in physical activity. That means that in only ten years, the daily level of physical activity amongst teens has been cut almost in half (Physical Activity and Health: Adolescents and Teens, par. 9-10). Not even the best school based interventions directed at increasing physical activity can actually improve a student"s level of fitness if they aren"t participathing in class to begin with.
Over sixty percent of adults do not
engage in the recommended amount of
activity. In fact, over twenty five percent
of American adults are not active at all
(Physical Activity and Health: Adults, par. 6-8)
Concerning the history of physical fitness awareness, physical activity for better health and well-being has been an important theme throughout much of western hemispherical, American history. Since the beginning of awareness, public health recommendations have evolved greatly. They started with emphasizing vigorous activity for cardio-respiratory fitness. The same recommendations are still given, but now it is thought to be better to include the options of moderate levels of activity for numerous health benefits (Historical Background and Evolution of Physical Activity Recommendations, par. 1-2).
One of the first specified fields of medicine in the fitness world was sports medicine. Physicians associated with professional sports teams initially practiced sports medicine, but with interest in amateur sports and physical fitness programs in the 1970"s and 1980"s the field grew rapidly. Sports medicine still continues to be a fast-growing division of specified medicine that has to revolutionize the understanding of exercise and the body"s reaction to the stress of exercise (Sports Medicine, par.1)
These physicians and doctors are not uncovering these earth-shattering discoveries on their own. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is very active in fitness research (The Future of Fitness, par. 2). The official government committee to support physical fitness is The President"s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS) is extremely vocal in the education of the public. PCPFS has been fighting its ever-toughening crusade against laziness since the era of President Kennedy, who founded the Council (Van Dalen, p. 520-521). There are also many Internet websites (e.g. efitness.com, emedicine.com, nutricise.com) that provide easily accessible information to the public.
Because of groups like ACE and PCFS, the awareness of the benefits to physical fitness are being broadcasted everywhere; it is just a matter of time until every American understands the value of being physically fit. When that time comes, experts say more people will exercise to achieve better health instead of just to improve appearance. Also, exercise will become a vital part of disease management. In the future, adventure workouts such as hiking and mountain climbing will replace traditional treadmill and weight training workout. Sports specific training such as golf and tennis exercises will become more mainstream. It is also said that exercise programs geared towards older adults such as water-based fitness will increase in popularity (The Future of Fitness, par. 3-4, 6-7).
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