COLUMN: Advocate for recreational sports to stay in shape

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that, surprising to no one, a sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to health.

The study found that prolonged sitting increases odds of “all-cause mortality.” This isn’t a revelation, but it brings exercise back to the front of our minds. It's a consistent issue that’s inherently a bit of a paradox.

Everyone knows that exercise is important. Studies like these are dime-a-dozen. And college students on many campuses have access to free gyms and recreational sports centers. It seems absurd then that college students are also less inclined to exercise. But studies show that even 19-year-olds don’t exercise as much as they should. 

Not to mention, sports are fun, or they should be.

But as one of those sedentary 19-year-olds, I realize that the way we approach sports isn’t fun. 

In high school, I played soccer, and I kept in shape. But when I came to college, sports became less normal. At a small Greencastle High School, everyone I knew played sports. It was just what you did. 

But with the intense sports culture here at IU, it’s so easy to fall off. There’s our Division I sports teams, and then there’s me, a barely-varsity soccer player. That’s the thing: The divide in skill lends itself to indifference and a willingness to give it up.

Statistics show that between 2.8 and 12.3 percent of high school players go on to play in the NCAA. And it’s great for those students. They keep in top shape as they represent their schools, but what about everyone else?

The obvious answer is, of course, recreational options. However, the problem is students come to college defining themselves by their sports. They label themselves soccer player, hooper or track star. But without the social or parental pressure and the social norms associated with sports, many students redefine their identities and cut recreation out of their lives. 

While it sounds like I’m advocating peer pressuring students into visiting the Student Recreational Sports Center, the solution is more complex. We need to approach sports in high school more realistically, and encourage recreational sporting habits at a high school level, rather than emphasizing the varsity-or-nothing mentality that’s all too common. 

In addition, continuing the recreational sports conversation through college will keep students from the idea that competitive sports are the only avenue for gameplay and exercise.

We need to encourage people to join recreational sports leagues, and to stick with them, from age five to 65. We should put the focus on getting out there and having fun. 

Fun instead of competition is how we’re going to teach youth to consistently exercise. While Baby Boomers may cry that such an action is coddling, we really do need more participation trophies.

Sports shouldn’t be about winning and losing, they should be about the game. Making exercise fun is how we get people to put exercise into their routine. And it doesn’t matter who hit more runs or scored more goals; our goal should be a happier, healthier society.


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