Photo courtesy of Erica Tobin.
Recently, the Los Angeles Times conducted a study to determine whether or not American youth has been fulfilling the federal recommendation of “60 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous exercise.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued this statement in 2008 due to an increase in obesity and health issues in American youth. Their research concluded that many students are not meeting the 60-minute minimum.
While some sports at Milken exceed the recommendation, others fail to come close to it.
At Milken, a four-credit physical education requirement has been in place since the school began. Sports teams meet at least four days a week and practices run from 3:30 to 5:00, allowing for only 90 minutes of exercise.
Even out of those 90 minutes, much is spent in a non-active state, such as timeouts or coach’s instructions.
As a general guideline, aerobic sports meet the requirement more easily because the body is in a continuous, active state, rather than the short bursts of speed in anaerobic exercise.
The rigor of the workout depends on whether the students are playing in a game or practice. The soccer, volleyball, and basketball teams have 20 games per season, which is the maximum number permitted at Milken. The tennis and golf teams have 16 matches, while cross-country and football only have 6 games per season.
The LA Times cited softball and baseball as sports with less physical activity and stated that girls and teenagers are less active than boys and children are.
Ms. Gail Sroloff, head of athletics, also acknowledged that sports such as cross country, soccer, and swimming involve more exercise than sports like baseball, track, golf, or volleyball.
Unlike basketball and volleyball games, soccer games and swim practices have few breaks or timeouts resulting in longer amounts of nonstop exercise. Teams that involve substitutions, such as basketball and flag football, minimize the amount of rigorous physical activity per athlete since players do not play the full length of the game.
Water polo games are 24 minutes each and a 20-minute warm-up precedes the game. Like soccer, though, the exercise varies due to each athlete’s playing time. Overall, water polo is considered to be more rigorous than others because of the nonstop exercise involved.
Cross-country fulfills the federal guideline the most because all team members participate at all times, and athletes’ bodies are in continuous, active states for a minimum of three miles. Many practices include five or six mile workouts, plus a warm-up and cool-down.
On an average game day, the soccer team plays for about 125 minutes, but that clearly varies with each athlete’s playing time. The teams’ practices typically consist of 80-minute workouts.
Because track is focused on short distances, it struggles to meet even half of the required 60-minute workout. The team runs less than one-minute sprints several times during a practice, adding up to only around half an hour of actual exercise once drills and warm-ups are included.
Volleyball off-season and practices require a vigorous workout, but the actual games do little to simulate a rigorous cardiovascular workout.
For many sports teams, there are not many solutions to this issue because of the format of the sport. However, reducing the amount of time just sitting around and waiting is a crucial element that can be decreased. Athletes who are not in the game can do some drills on the sidelines to keep their heart pumping. Coaches should minimize their pep talks. Exercises should be more continuous, like running, rather than stop-and-start activities.