The concept of literacy is not foreign to anyone. Indeed, we all realize the importance of the ability to read and write in terms functioning in the world. Lack of literacy is considered a societal tragedy that the developed world attempts to avoid at all costs. When basic literacy is lacked within an individual (or population) life closes in and gets very small, achievement is limited, and life lacks fulfillment and a sense of purpose. All consequences that should be avoided at all costs.
Although we’re all very familiar with the concept of academic literacy, physical literacy is a term that many of us might find confusing or odd at first glance. This is mostly because the term has been underutilized and to the detriment of our society and our health, as physical literacy researcher and advocate Dr. Anthony Moreno explains in episode 40 of the Wellness Paradox Podcast.
Just as academic literacy involves learning the basic set of skills an individual can take into the rest of their life to be literate in reading and writing, physical literacy does that same thing, but in a physical domain. Instead of spelling, grammar, and reading comprehension, physical literacy focuses on the motor skills associated with physical movement. When someone develops and fosters these skills at a young age (really any age) and maintains them throughout the lifespan their opportunities to be healthy, fulfilled and engage with the world expand exponentially. At the same time their level of disease and illness decrease dramatically.
The tragic and objective reality is we currently have a very physical illiterate society. Physical education classes are being phased out of schools and/or taught by unqualified staff. Youth sports are becoming increasingly competitive, where only the best athletes have the ability to play frequently. Over 75% of Americans DO NOT meet the current physical activity recommendations for aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise. No matter how you view it, our society is physically illiterate and becoming more so by the day as technology makes our lives more sedentary. Just as with academic literacy, when this happens; life closes in and gets very small, achievement is limited, and life lacks fulfillment and a sense of purpose, mostly driven by ill-health.
There is a solution to a population-based approach to becoming more physically literate as a society and it starts with frontline fitness professionals and health/fitness clubs. The fitness industry and its professionals have the infrastructure, knowledge, and resources to implement many of the existing government guidance to improve physical activity levels and thereby physical literacy. In this podcast Dr. Moreno explores this concept further as well as actionable steps (pun intended) the health/fitness industry can take today to combat the physical literacy crisis in America.
Our Guest: Dr. Anthony Moreno, PhD
Dr. Tony Moreno is a Professor of Kinesiology at Eastern Michigan University with focus in biomechanics, youth sport, and pediatric exercise science. He has authored educational materials regarding athlete development, physical literacy, performance enhancement, and injury prevention for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, USA Lacrosse, USA Ultimate, USA Hockey, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. In addition, Professor Moreno is the proprietor of Atletika USA, a movement, physical activity, and sport programming consulting firm based in mid-Michigan. Professor Moreno holds graduate adjunct faculty positions at both Michigan State University and West Virginia University and was recently appointed to serve on both the Michigan Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health, and Sports, on the Board of Directors for the Michigan Fitness Foundation, and on the Medical/Science Advisory Board for the Michigan Fitness Club Association.
Helpful Links Mentioned in the Podcast:
Dr Dean Kriellaars - Physical Literacy Enriched Communities: Places, People and Programs - YouTube
What is Physical Literacy? - YouTube
Physical literacy - Sport for Life
Physical Literacy Definition - Physical Literacy