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Backpacking Fitness

Who Goes Outside Anymore?

Only the white, middle-aged, and well-off appear engaged in sports

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I came across a rather disappointing 10-year study out of England which pointed out that growth in sports participation was “largely restricted to middle aged and older people” with 45 years old serving as the time when men and women start playing more. Conversely, the participation stats from men under the age of 30 dropped dramatically over those 10 years. What I found truly disturbing about this study is that the rates of people engaged in physical activity, actually grew overall, thanks mainly to a jump in gym/fitness class attendance.

Why does this bother me? Because, staying fit and healthy is second nature. It doesn’t require machines, equipment, or a class. I’ll take this news on increased activity to mean that the population is getting the message that staying fit matter, but they’re being told the only way to get fit is to join a gym. And that’s a shame when joining a coed soccer league, running club, or cycling group, or even going for a vigorous hike with your dog, provides many, if not more health benefits than sweating through a Spinning class in an overheated, stuffy room. I also find the fact that it’s only the comfortably well off and middle-aged who seem to be playing sports. Whatever happened to playing with your kids? All you need is a $20 basketball or soccer ball, a public court or grass field, and you’re in business.

I know I’m being overly simplistic here, but I find it bizarre that sports, whether they’re organized or pick-up games, are being taken over by men and women in their 40s and 50s. Perhaps this is because after all those decades of chasing the latest fad diet and exercise craze, they finally learned to ignore the media hype and do stuff they love. Like hiking.

For this, I’ll take some of the blame. You see, I’ve been asked by editors and I’ve asked writers to make workouts more gym-centric to appeal to a more urban target audience. I even recall an editor at a major women’s fitness magazine tell me flat out that my idea for a no-gym, full-body workout wouldn’t work since “women only work out in gyms.” Not said was that this audience happen to include advertising buyers at ad agencies in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

I think it’s about time we and our kids learned what our parents seem to know. That getting outside and playing is a helluva lot more fun than going on a diet or going to the gym. I’d be willing to bet that if you put up a guy who only went to the gym against a guy who played soccer twice a week and went for a 2-hour hike on the weekend with his dog, the soccer player would probably kick the gym-goer’s butt.

Knowing that, why would anyone wait until they’re 45 to start playing?

Source: Science Daily

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