Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Help then Health

Is my predilection to physical activity nature or nuture? After all, I grew up in the confines of a Manhattan apartment where a trip to greener pastures was just that: a bonafide excursion where my mother would pack my brother and me up (my sibling sat in a stroller but I preferred to walk) armed with a travel bag of snacks and toys, to Central Park two blocks away. We didn't have a lawn to roam about on our own until much later, when we'd summer in Westport, Conn about five years or so later, so every opportunity in those early years to play or run was a prearranged, planned event. 

With this background, it would seem that my thirst for constant movement would boil down to nature. Yet, a brand-new study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition seems to show a different possibility. After studying over 1,300 children, aged 10 to 11 from 23 different urban schools, researchers found overall that "the greater a child's independent mobility, the more active he or she was physically."

And the thing was, even though we didn't spend that much time unfortunately in a pastoral environment, so to speak, I was always outside, walking. In gritty '70s NYC,  I barely spent anytime in the car. I was traipsing to school, walking our dog, trekking to the grocery store, museums, movie theater or to meet friends. I was constantly on the move actually, especially in summer when it was so hot in the apartments and the music from boomboxes on the streets were so loud that my mother would often walk us up and down the blocks for hours until we were too tired to stay up anymore. 

The only organizational fitness I was exposed to in the city was conveniently urban. Jumping rope, hopscotch or kickball were the norm. But I also preferred yoga. In my untraditional, experimental private elementary school called Walden, our kindergarten and first grade teachers would often have us meditate and do yoga for fitness. Sometimes, when I'd come home, I'd get into the Lotus position, explaining to my mother that I was doing "yoga for help." And though I am sure now that I had this wrong, the teacher was saying "health," not "help," I think a part of me still loves the helping, not healthful, benefits of fitness the most.

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