AAHPERD comes to Indy – American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance; Indiana University

Maynard Good Stoddard

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports is visiting all 50 states in an effort to get more physical education into school curricula, says, “In all our visits, no organization has been as much help to us as AAHPERD.”

In case you haven’t heard the acronym AAHPERD before, you will soon. With everyone from President Bush, Arnold, and every family in America wishing better health and fitness for all, AAHPERD, as Arnold has discovered, is a 35,000-member force to get the job done.

In dissenting the acronym, the AA becomes American Alliance, the H is for health, the PE stands for Physical Education, the R refers to Recreation, and the D–what else but Dance. Put them all together and they spell improved health and fitness for all Americans.

AAHPERD is definitely not a new kid in the health and fitness neighborhood. Founded in 1885, the nonprofit organization for more than 100 years has not altered its aim, only its numbers. Today, the membership includes teachers, administrators, researchers, coaches, students, and others in specialized fields, all working to provide programs in the school and the community with a single purpose: to make fitness and health a part of daily lives–today and tomorrow.

Why is AAHPERD so concerned? For the same reason Arnold Schwarzenegger is concerned: The vast majority of America’s children and youth are both inactive and unfit.

Catherine O’Neill, writing in the Washington Post, after pointing out that American kids are “just plain out of shape,” backs up her accusation with these chilling figures:

“About 70 percent of girls and 40 percent of boyd ages 6 to 12 do not have enough muscle to do more than one pull-up. And nearly 40 percent of kids ages 5 to 8 have health conditions such as obesity or high blood pressure which increase their chances of getting heart disease as they get older.” No wonder, as O’Neill says, the wimpiness of American kids has doctors worried.

So what are the kids doing with their time when they should be out riding their bikes, swimming, playing soccer or tag or ball or whatever to put the body in motion? Watching television, of course–2 hours on weekdays, 3 1/2 hours on weekend days, for an ungrand total of 17 hours a week.

Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, Secretary of Health and Human Services, is keenly aware of the necessity for kids to get a move on. “American schools should have three basic goals for their physical education programs,” he says: “to produce physically fit youth; to teach the relationship between physical activity, physical fitness and health; and to promote the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to help children lead active, healthy, and productive lives as adults.”

AAHPERD’s objectives follow closely these important guidelines. While most members are professionally active in education, others are found in the forefront of corporate fitness, community recreation, and commercial health fitness. The Alliance relates to these members through six national associations which cover physical education, sports for girls and women, the advancement of health education, leisure and recreation, and dance. For your information, the proper names of these national organizations are: National Association for Sport and Physical Education; National Association for Girls and women in Sport; Association for the Advancement of Health Education; American Association for Leisure and Recreation; Association for Research, Administration, and Professional Councils and Societies; and the National Dance Association.

With the high endeavor of these associations as stimulus, AAHPERD has developed its Physical Best, a fitness program proclaimed to be more an “educational program” than a fitness test. The focus is fitness as it relates to health: aerobic endurance (the ability to perform physical activity over extended periods of time); body composition (fat and lean); flexibility (ability to move muscles and joints); and muscular strength and endurance (ability of muscles to produce force at high intensities over short intervals of time).

“Our people are primarily in the elementary and secondary schools,” says Dr. Harold H. Morris, president of AAHPERD and professor and chairman of the Department of Kinesiology, Indiana University at Blooming-ton. “We are running the exercise programs, the athletic programs,” he says. “In my opinion we have very few peers as organizations that are trying to do the things listed by Healthy People 2000.”

We had to ask about Healthy People 2000.

“That is the objective of the nation for the year 2000 as developed by the office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion,” Dr. Morris explained. “A report released a year ago, entitled Code Blue, balked about the role of the school and the community in adolescent health. Its conclusion was that for the first time in the history of the nation our current adolescent population will be less healthy than their parents. So what we are trying to accomplish is to increase the health of everyone. AAHPERD, through its various professional associations, provides the support for people who are actually attempting to do the things that are outlined in those objectives. We are broader than just health. Sport is a theme. Obviously, fitness is a component that exists between the two.”

Dr. Morris also pointed out that public health today runs the gamut from sanitation to maintaining a proper diet. It reaches from exercise to being sure you go in often enough for a mammogram if you are female.

By fortunate circumstance, Dr. Morris being president of the Alliance and on the faculty of IU, the annual convention of the organization this year will be held at the Convention Center in Indianapolis. Equally fortunate: Arnold Schwarzenegger has attended the convention each year since his appointment to the chairmanship of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. How convenient, then, to invite AAHPERD’s Physical Best program to be given along with the President’s Council test in the well-equipped arena of the Fitness Farm of the Children’s Better Health Institute.

Although the Alliance test and the Council test are now in the courtship stage awaiting marriage, here on the Farm’s spacious grounds the two advocates will be invited to commune, uniting the best features of both, and in such a way as not to confuse the physical education teachers and others who administer the tests in schools.

How the two tests differ is pointed out by A. Gilson Brown, executive vice-president of AAHPERD.

“The President’s Challenge has been more of a performance-related test,” he says, “measuring one child against another child in terms of performance and athletic ability. Our Physical Best is more a health-related testing. It is not just a matter of performance but how you measure yourself against yourself in terms of your fitness. The President’s Council is coming around to this way of thinking–health-related nature being the key ingredient of the new combined effort.

“The whole educational program,” he adds, “is the intent to instill attitudes and behaviour related to life-long fitness–and the prevention of cardiovascular and other serious diseases.”

The gala April seminar will incorporate a celebration of the Grand-Time Striders, at which the Striders will report the number of miles walked with a grandchild (the winners to be announced at the Saturday Evening Ball). For fun as well as exercise, competing health clubs members will duel in a tug of war. Employees from two area hospitals will also tug it out. How many kids will it take on the end of a rope to budge the might Arnold? We’ll find out.

So . . . like Camelot, for one brief shining moment, the best of fitness and health will converge in Indianapolis in the month of April, 1992. The AAHPERD convention April 7-11. The “Arnold Schwarzenegger Relays and Fitness Fair” April 11. And that night, Saturday night, appropriately, the big finish–The Saturday Evening Ball . . . complete with the big-band sounds of the rhumba, fox trot, cha-cha, and waltz.

COPYRIGHT 1992 Saturday Evening Post Society

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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