There are many ways to accurately assess whether a person is clinically overweight or obese, one of
the easiest being body composition testing. Testing can be very helpful in combatting obesity when performed properly and safeguards followed. Likewise, there are many ways to curb the incline of obesity rates nationwide, one of the overall best being regular training in the Martial Arts!
It is an alarming and unfortunate fact that childhood obesity is rampant in the U.S. and most developed countries. A current controversy in American physical education (P.E.) classes is whether to administer to students the simple, non-invasive analytical procedure known as body composition testing. There are legitimate reasons for the testing and evaluation, but valid concerns to be addressed, such as privacy controls, training, and advisement.
Body composition testing is used to determine the percent of body fat by taking three to seven skin-fold measurements using calipers. There are other methods available, but this one is usually used by schools and can be fairly accurate when administered by minimally trained personnel. In the school setting, a member of the same sex should administer the test.
Some “pros” of testing:
- It could put many teens, especially girls in the “normal” range.
- Borderline teens would be aware of a potentially dangerous health issue which a physician could
help them address.
- Evaluation may encourage some to pursue more active lifestyles or nutritional habits.
Some “cons” of testing:
- It may hurt the self-esteem of those with an otherwise healthy and positive self-image.
- False results are possible. A recent study has shown that tired or untrained personnel may alter
results by 20%.
- Students may compare scores that could prompt eating disorders or other undesirable response.
Many adults have nightmare stories of discomfort, humiliation, or worse from their school days in P.E., but today’s teachers are working to erase that outdated image. One thing that never changes is that information improperly communicated, phrased or spoken in the wrong way, can have a detrimental lifelong effect on someone. This is why the results of body composition testing should be kept strictly confidential. Students should be advised against comparing their numbers with those of other students. “Fat shaming” is a commonplace form of bullying and students should be reminded about the policies in place at their school.
The “obesity epidemic” didn’t happen overnight. Its demise will take a lot of time too, evidently much longer. In order for body composition testing to have a positive effect on a class or community, the community has to be willing to make changes. Are there safe areas for students to have fun that are also physical? Does the community have parks or youth centers for the kids to meet? Do kids hang out at the fast food joints mainly because they feel welcome and safe? Are there any adequate alternatives? Is it cost prohibitive for many students to participate on local teams? Testing is only one part of what needs to be evaluated to curb the rise in obesity everywhere. Martial Arts training can be an integral part of the solution. They deliver many health and fitness benefits, such as preventing or remediating obesity, for millions of students of all ages worldwide as they have for generations and will continue unabated.
“Each student’s Martial Arts journey is a unique set of ‘personal victories’ that are rewarding, motivating, and structured for personal self-improvement both mentally and physically,” says Taekwondo and Krav Maga instructor Senior Master Tracy Lee Thomas, 7BD, of Virginia Beach, VA. “Fighting obesity requires our commitment to being proactive and educating our youth on the importance of healthy eating habits and an energetic physical fitness routine. Martial Arts training is more than just kicking and punching: it’s a way of thinking and doing that changes us and leads to better, safer, healthier, and longer lives!”