February 25, 2018

What is Physical Literacy?

Physical Literacy is arguably just as important as Literacy…..

70 years ago, humans had a lot more physical work to do in their day to day life. Today, we get less inherent, everyday physical activity and it takes effort to get moving and get active. Kids were able to roam a lot farther from home, which meant more unorganized physical activity and the opportunity to build skills around decision making, which leads to more confidence.

On the flip side of that, we’ve come a long way in terms of figuring out how to help people move better, more efficiently and with more confidence. How much exercise or activity do you really need to do? A term called Physical Literacy has become a very hot topic over the last few years.

The International Physical Literacy Association describes it as the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities (Whitehead, 2016).

Many middle aged clients have become inactive as a result of both less inherent and automatic physical activity in their day to day lives, but also because they may lack the skills and knowledge on how to get moving in a variety of different ways – either they haven’t been active in the past, or a condition has changed the way they need to move. There is no one perfect way: our bodies need variety, and most importantly, we need to do the things we enjoy; this encourages physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health and also means we will stick with it!

The ways you’ve been active and the experiences you’ve had in the past also play a part. Do you have a positive or negative outlook on physical activity? Is it a chore or a gift? Do you have a chronic condition that affects the way it’s safe for you to exercise? Do you still have nightmares of the Canada Fitness Test in Grade 4, or do you think about a stellar performance in a sport you played and the feeling of being strong and accomplishing a goal? Did a coach yell at you when you didn’t quite try hard enough one day? How active was your social circle?

No matter how many sidewalks we build, no matter how many parks we construct, no matter how much we urge people to get involved with physical activity, they simply won’t do it unless they have the ability, confidence, and desire to be physically active. That’s where physical literacy comes in.

— American Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy (Murthy, June 27, 2015)

Physical Literacy is a new catch phrase that encompasses a positive attitude towards being active, and having the physical skills to do it.

The focus is mainly on giving children the chance to learn about their bodies on a variety of surfaces (ice, water, snow, and land), challenge themselves, and ultimately have to confidence to try new things. So that, as adults they are healthier, more outgoing and not just exercising in a women’s only corner of the gym, hidden away from the world, but out hitting the slopes with their family and showing their children how to be active, and how to try new things.

As a parent and fitness professional, I encourage you to ask your children’s coaches if they know what physical literacy is, and whether every child they come in contact with is going to leave every practice with a positive feeling, that makes them want to come back the next time. Give your family freedom for unorganized outdoor play and experience the strength your body has. Try something new yourself while also considering the things you truly enjoy when it comes to movement.

Check out Active for Life and Physical Literacy for more information and tips

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