A weak body weakens the mind

Pedrito doesn’t go to gym class, he has a doctor’s note excusing him from 45 minutes of physical activity, because of his asthma. Yoandry doesn’t go out on the school yard either, since a similar document sites an orthopedic problem. What they and their parents do not know is that they are condemning themselves.

No one picks them for their team in a street game, they can’t handle the ball; they watch a rousing stickball competition from the sidelines, and when they do get a chance, they strike out or don’t make it to first base. Their circle of friends is getting smaller. They are good students, so people begin to predict that they will be scientists, like those who have given our country prestige in this field. But, if those exhausting days arrive, in an effort to provide humanity with a medication as effective as Heberprot-P or a vaccine to eradicate an infectious disease, they may tire quickly, begin to feel aches and pains, that prevent them from making a greater contribution to society.

No child should be denied Physical Education, and the school – its principal, teachers, and staff – and the family are responsible for this. Reasons abound, but the first is simply that movement is an excellent pedagogical tool, that lays the foundation for the development of basic human skills.

We cannot forget that our bodies are fundamentally composed of liquid, and just as stagnant water is not healthy, the same thing happens with our fluids. The regular practice of physical activity protects our anatomy and allows us to take on any task, with energy and vitality, be it one that required physical or intellectual work, which in turn contributes to our emotional stability, diligence, and perseverance. To these advantages of physical activity, three others of much importance must be added: a sense of security, collective spirit, and responsibility.

When we enjoy ourselves, and get excited about an accomplishment in sports, these elements are present. The pride we feel in the scientific role our country plays in the world, or in our Revolutionary Armed Forces that guarantee the country’s security, is also related to the way we were raised, how we shape and prepare our bodies and minds. But where does this begin? In P.E. – which we could very well call the basic cell, or the foundation, of the human edifice.

“It is not a mind, it is not a body that we educate, it is a person, who we should not divide in two.”

Back in the 16th century, during the Renaissance, the philosopher Michel de Montaigne, who is considered the creator of the essay as a literary genre, stated, “It is not a mind, it is not a body that we educate, it is a person, who we should not divide in two.” Two centuries later, Jean Jacques Rousseau affirmed that the body and mind are one, saying, “A weak body weakens the mind.”

As soon as we let out our first cry coming into the world, our evolution begins. Logically it is biological, and a point is reached when “involution,” regression, begins. To be clear: we begin to age. And at this moment, what we failed to do on the schoolyard, in that big, fresh air classroom, cannot be recuperated.

Physical education, in any of its formats, is the only effective way to preserve physical strength, the capacity to do physical work, and maintain optimal health. This is what delays the apparition of the negative effects of aging and improves quality of life.

The sooner physical education begins, the greater the benefits in advanced age.

Cuba has options to ensure that children like Pedrito and Yoandry are not denied Physical Education. The P.E. teachers who work in therapeutic environments that serve students with health problems cannot always become involved in the regular curriculum, which is why 28 programs exist in the country’s municipalities that focus on specific chronic diseases.

Photo: Enviada por Ively Valdés Marfil

Additionally in place is a comprehensive system of health promotion, that includes Physical Educational staff to address the needs of older adults, pregnant and nursing women, and aerobic exercise groups. Ours is one of the few nations in the world that has Physical Education established in the elementary school curriculum.

No matter the fact that solid arguments illustrate its importance, without teachers, there is no Physical Education. This is the person who promotes an inclusive environment, for the little guy, the overweight – the person who promotes and demands participation, convinced that in his or her school there is a future Olympic champion or a PhD scientist. If equipment is not available, and many times it is not, the professional educator must be creative. Teachers are the first to afford physical activity the importance it deserves, and make sure others understand that no other academic review or activity should take its place.

Within the vast legacy Fidel left us are his ideas on the subject, as if he were one of these teachers. (He would have been a favourite.) On September 4, 1964, he stated, “One can observe certain shortcomings in our athletes that are the consequence of the lack of physical education precisely at the age when human beings’ muscles and physical conditions begin to develop… that is, as a child… Physical Education is an essential part of the basic education of children.”

“One can observe certain shortcomings in our athletes that are the consequence of the lack of physical education precisely at the age when human beings’ muscles and physical conditions begin to develop… that is, as a child… Physical Education is an essential part of the basic education of children.”

Photo: Granma

 

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