| Sep 19, 2016
By: Justin B. Moore, Ph.D., MS, FACSM
From September 8 through September 19, the ACSM Sports Performance Blog is featuring a special content series in celebration of the achievements of para-athletes participating in this month’s international competition. Be sure to follow the blog as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (acsm1954) and share using #ScienceofSport.
With the close of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games now behind us, we celebrate the best athletes the world has to offer. Their stories of dedication, personal sacrifice, overcoming hardship, professional camaraderie and victory (or valiance in defeat) inspire us. For many, it has been the spark that ignites a desire to dust off our road bike, goggles, running shoes or golf clubs. It may also inspire youth around the globe to take up a sport that may provide much-needed physical activity. However, it also gives us a chance to reflect on the unique nature of the Olympic Games as a celebration of sport, the implication for physical activity and sport promotion, and the necessary supports to promote lifelong physical activity in our communities.
The Olympics are partially comprised of commercially popular sports (eg, basketball, soccer, and tennis) that, along with sports such as American football, tend to dominate youth sports, particularly in America. However, research suggests, and anecdotal evidence would support, that most adults who participate in sport will participate in those that resemble traditional Olympic sports such as badminton, swimming, running or weightlifting. As such, it may make more sense to promote these sports, which can be engaged in over a lifetime, than those which rarely survive the transition to adulthood (eg, football). However, if we are to support these lifelong physical activities, what are the barriers that need to be overcome?
An article in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise by Kamphuis and colleagues (2008) suggests targets for intervention. For example, they found that neighborhood characteristics (eg, safety concerns), household factors (eg, lack of material resources), and characteristics of participants (eg, low self-efficacy) were associated with socioeconomic inequalities in sports participation. In short, those in resource poor communities were less likely to participate in sport. However, if you look at these results, you see modifiable targets for community action. Safe places for children and adults to play can be built and maintained. Equipment and transportation programs can be developed and supported. Youth can be given developmentally appropriate lessons to build their self-efficacy for sport. As such, supporting organizations related to the Olympic Games and the athletes who train there, such as the National Cycling Center in Winston-Salem, NC, can provide the skills, resources, and opportunities for lifelong sport in our communities.
Justin Moore is an associate professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine in the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC.