Physical Activity an important part of child wellbeing
Oklahoma City — Despite not being much of an athlete, I enjoy participating in sports. I still remember the playground when our physical education teacher would encourage us as a class to do organized exercises together; later, it was group games like dodgeball and kickball.
These led to interscholastic junior high sports, and then high school sports. For a lucky and talented few, this might lead to scholarships in college and beyond.
While many had the goal of being an athlete professionally, that is a very tough path to see success. According to the NCAA, only one in 16,000 college athletes will attain a professional career in sports. But becoming a professional athlete is a longshot, becoming a star even more so.
Take baseball for instance: there were 8,002 draft-eligible NCAA baseball players, but only 791 were drafted by Major League Baseball. For basketball, 4,181 draft-eligible NCAA men’s basketball players, only 52 were drafted into the National Basketball Association. For women’s basketball, 31 out of 3,669 draft-eligible NCAA women’s basketball players were drafted in the WNBA.
We all watch the NFL draft each spring. There were 16,380 draft-eligible football players, and only 254 were drafted by NFL teams. Now in all the sports, the occasional undrafted free agent breaks through, but that is even rarer.
Despite the long odds, many strive for that elite level; this kind of dedication helps them and their teammates set goals, and – whether they make the pros or not – will provide some of their favorite memories of their days in school. I know the older I get, the better I was.
Still, there are great benefits of being physically active. Physical activity strengthens the heart, helping to ward off heart disease – the leading cause of death in the United States. Exercise keeps arteries and veins clear, reducing harmful cholesterol and fats. Vigorous activity increases lung capacity and helps prevent the decline in oxygen intake that occurs naturally with age or because of inactivity.
Exercise reduces blood sugar levels and can reduce a person’s risk of developing diabetes. Exercise controls weight, burning calories instead of allowing your body to store them as fat. It strengthens bones. Adults start losing bone mass in their 20s, but those who exercise regularly reach greater peak bone density than those who do not exercise.
Exercise helps prevent cancer as people who exercise regularly have lower incidences of cancer. It regulates blood pressure and reduces stress levels, further protecting the body from heart disease. If you exercise, you will have more energy. All of this enhances emotional well-being. Most people report that they feel calm and have a sense of well-being after they exercise.
We have several initiatives going on in Oklahoma right now to encourage physical activity, especially among school age children. We are honored to be working with Rep. Danny Sterling (R-Tecumseh) on a bill relating to physical education. Even during a pandemic, it is possible for young people to safely participate in PE and sports when proper protocols are followed. With the high school football playoffs behind us for this year in Oklahoma, and New Year ahead, I wish all athletes a safe spring; and hope they achieve the goals they set through competition.
Note: Joe Dorman is chief executive officer at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. His commentaries appear regularly on CapitolBeatOK.com, an independent news service based in Oklahoma City.