Ever since I was little, I wanted to go to Africa to cure AIDS and help all the little babies. However, as I have grown up, I have seen that it is not so much about fixing a problem. I cannot ever conclude that a country is broken or that something is missing from it, especially when I have never been there personally. I have no longer focused on fixing Africa. Instead, I want to know more about the people who live there. I want to learn. I want to explore a culture so different from my own that I will need to drastically change my behavior in order to fit in (it actually sounds a lot like when I arrived in Utah!). I will not be looking for what Africans need to do better. I do not need to change a thing about their culture. Instead, I will be looking to Ghanaians for inspiration on how to positively affect American culture...
In the United States, we frequently hear the word obesity thrown around. It truly is a problem for this generation. For good reason! If I may generalize a bit, the majority of children have so much interaction with technology that forces them into sedentary behavior for most of the day. Not to mention the classroom environment is usually a sedentary one as well. A child may sit for 6 hours in school, getting up rarely to move at a low intensity to the water fountain or bathroom, and return home to watch TV or play video games. You may be thinking, well, at least they have gym class. You may be astonished to find out that only 17% of American middle schools mandate a physical education class for the students. 17%!!! So, where else do children become physically active? Organized sports? Playing outside under the direction of parents to "turn off the TV for a little and go get some fresh air"? This is a part of what I will be finding out in my study. Of course, changes in nutrition are part of the increase in rates of obesity. However, my study will only focus on physical activity.
You may be thinking ok, I can see why you would be working with the middle school kids, but why are you focusing on core stability in this age group? First of all, let me define core stability in terms of my project. I am defining it as balance about the hips. There is more to it, of course. The abdominal, back, and leg muscles all play a huge role in developing core stability. Bones are also important because the joints about the hips are the only places that can move, and joints are made up of bones, muscles, and nerves. So core stability is that which aids us every time we sit up straight. It helps us do push ups and sit-ups. It helps us walk down the stairs. It is even an important component in gait (walking). Since core stability is such a crucial development to have, improving quality of life for all people, I have chosen to focus on how physical activity (type, duration, and intensity) correlates to core stability.
So why did I choose Ghana? It is not simply because it's in Africa and I have always dreampt of going there. In Ghana, children carry huge water baskets on their heads from the ages of 3-4 and up. They carry lots of things on their heads...it's how they transport belongings. In addition, schoolchildren do not have backs on their chairs. Can you imagine sitting upright for 6 hours every day? According to the principle of use, which states that the more you use a muscle the more it develops and the less you use the muscle the more it atrophies, these children must have amazing core stability.
So basically, I want to know what it is in their culture, specifically, that differs from ours. What can we learn as parents, teachers, administrators, coaches, and caregivers of any type that can improve the fitness of children so that they can experience improved quality of life? What are Ghanaians doing that we have not learned yet, and how can we implement it into our everyday routines? Therefore, I am questioning the question: how do Ghanaians and Americans differ in core stability, and how is that core stability correlated to different types, durations, and intensities of physical activities?
I love you all...wish me luck!