Do you remember the start of a new school year? Maybe some excitement about back to school clothes, fresh school supplies and some apprehension over a new grade, a new teacher, classmates, and maybe even a new school. That angst may have grown as you considered a return to gym class. Not everyone has fond memories of their school experience and this may be particularly true of your phys ed (PE) class. Interestingly, how you felt about PE in school may persist in later life. In fact, recent studies have shown that fond memories of your high school PE experience is related to being more physically active as an adult. And of course the opposite holds true, for those who felt that PE was a survival of the fittest, Lord of the Flies ordeal…well then they may not be as likely to participate in physical activities as adults!
When I was younger, gym class seemed like a lot of fun. Movement was unstructured and play based with less of a competitive nature to it. You stayed in your street clothes and ran out the sillies and then continued on with your day. Moving along to junior and senior high, I remember a decrease in the fun factor in PE class. The curriculum became more sports and results focused and less about movement and building a habit of lifetime activity. This was not a problem for those kids who loved or were good at sports. But this wasn’t a fit for all kids and for them a dislike of gym class became synonymous with an aversion to fitness in general and this mindset followed many of them into adulthood.
I am happy to report that PE classes now are much more inclusive and more thought is given to kids having different interests and abilities. But for those of us who are adults now, how do we reignite a love of fitness if your school experience didn’t provide that positive learning environment? I think there are a couple of answers to this question. One is reminding yourself that being successful in PE class and being active as an adult are two quite different things. As adults we have the opportunity to find activities that we love to do. The list of possibilities is endless and sometimes it is just a matter of giving something a try to see if it’s a fit for you: walking, swimming, dancing, yoga, hiking, biking, skiing, fitness classes to name just a few. There are many adult classes aimed at beginners so it’s never too late to give something new a try. It can also really help to find a group to do these activities with. The social component of fitness can play a large role in why someone will continue to participate in an activity. Not everyone likes to workout with others though and this can be related to their confidence or aptitude at an activity or just personal preference. The abundance of online fitness offerings can be a great option in these cases.
Redefining what fitness looks like or what it means to be active can help to change your mind about your ability to be successful in this area. For many, the word fitness conjures up images of someone working out in a gym and going to extremes with their exercise routines. If that is not your cup of tea or it the thought of going to a gym makes you feel anxious or uneasy, there are many ways to be active or ‘into fitness’. Find ways to move your body that speak to you and places to do that where you will feel supported (e.g. outside with friends, in a team sport with like minded people, working with a trainer in a small gym setting). As we age we lose muscle mass, flexibility, mobility and balance often becomes impaired. Sigh! Staying active can help to offset these changes and can help us to keep moving independently longer. So, no matter what your school PE experience was, we are all athletes, we just need to find those activities that bring us joy! If you need help getting started on your fitness journey or are just looking for something new to add to your repertoire, our small gym is now open for personal training clients. Here’s to keeping our bodies moving!
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
Co-owner Bragg Creek Physiotherapy