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Active, healthy lifestyles
Active, healthy lifestyles

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1 Myths and misconceptions

Physical education provides opportunities for pupils to be creative, competitive and to face up to different challenges as individuals, and in groups and teams. It promotes positive attitudes towards active and healthy lifestyles.

(Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (2004)

What does this mean for PE teachers? How can PE teachers effectively help to promote active, healthy lifestyles amongst young people?

Nearly every week we hear reports on the decreasing fitness and activity levels of children and young people in Britain – lifestyle changes would appear to have led to widespread sedentary behaviour, particularly for this age group.

However, there is much hyperbole in some of the media reporting, together with interchangeable use of the terms fitness, activity and health. Before considering some of the evidence, it may be helpful to refresh our understanding of these terms – the following are accepted definitions of these complex concepts:

Health is ‘… a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ It is a ‘… resource for everyday life, not the objective for living, and a positive concept emphasising social and personal resources as well as physical capabilities.’

Activity is ‘… any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure.’

Fitness is ‘… a set of attributes that people have or achieve that relates to the ability to perform physical activity.’

(Health Education Authority (1998) Young and active?, p.2)

Now look at a number of commonly used statements and ideas concerned with health, activity and fitness in Activity 1.

If you would like to open this quiz in a new window click on 'Launch in separate player'

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Activity 1

Part A

Look at the ‘Health, fitness and physical activity statements’ contained in the animation above.

Decide whether you ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ with each statement. Then compare them with the commentaries.

  • Did any of the answers surprise you?

    These statements highlight some common myths and misconceptions associated with health, fitness and physical activity.

  • Why do you think myths and misconceptions are so widespread in this area?

    Discuss your ideas with your colleagues and consider any implications there may be for your department's curriculum content or for your own lessons.

You might like to try the quiz with your pupils.

Part B

Read three short case studies of young people by clicking this link:

Case studies of young people [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Make notes about what the case studies suggest, individually and collectively, in relation to the following questions:

  • Do you think that these young people are fit? What makes you think this?

  • Do you think that these young people are healthy? What makes you think this?

  • What guidance could be offered to these people? Who should provide this?

  • Can you think of any real or hypothetical examples of a fit, unhealthy person?

  • Can you think of any real or hypothetical examples of an unfit, healthy person?

  • How are the above issues addressed in your school's curriculum?