Archive for the ‘making a difference’ Category

Why Incentives Work

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

why-incentives-work

The History of the Token Economy

The use of incentives to encourage desirable behaviors and deter undesirable behaviors was long ago dubbed the “token economy.” Token economies (involving cards, trinkets, money, etc.) to enhance or deter behaviors have been in place, according to Liberman (2000), for more than 50 years. This tactic is a type of reward system used with children, adults and animals. The approach grew out of the work of B.F. Skinner, the famed behavioral psychologist, and his operant conditioning principles.

In the early 1960s, the token economy method was primarily used with mentally-ill patients and animals (Jackson & Hackenberg, 1996). More recently, the strategy has emerged as a means of assisting people of all ages and psychological abilities to learn to better manage their behaviors.

The logistics of the token economy have a mixed history of endorsement and criticism. In the 1970s, researchers Kazdin and Bootzin (1972) demonstrated that token economies were being applied in a wide range of settings. They further stated there were several advantages for researchers, therapists and teachers in using tokens to establish—or at least encourage—desirable behaviors. During this same time period, another studyby Paul and Lentz (1977) demonstrated the superiority of the token economy approach over the standard psychological therapy in use at that time.

The Validity of External Incentives

Despite their endorsement of the token economy, Kazdin and Bootzin (1972) noted some potential downsides. They warned that some obstacles may impede the effectiveness and/or implementation of this therapy. These obstacles include staff training and time demands, adult client resistance, and client dependence on tokens and consequent lack of intrinsic motivation (known as the failure to generalize). The authors issued this warning: “Although token economies are successful while in operation, the issue of generalization of behavior gains or resistance to extinction has not been given careful consideration” (p. 343). Another publication by Kazdin(1982) raised certain ethical issues, such as whether it is justifiable to provide cigarettes as reinforcements for appropriate behavior and whether it is appropriate to implement “reward and punishment” systems as a means of treatment.

During the decades bookending the start of the 21st century, there emerged other opponents of using rewards to stimulate behavior change. One outspoken protagonist was Alfie Kohn, an American author and lecturer. Kohn (1993) strongly criticized the use of incentives—such as grades, stars and praise—to motivate young people. While his writings are interesting and at times compelling, he unjustifiably denigrates much of the evidence (from studies highlighted here, randomized control studies, empirical observations and sales data) supporting the effectiveness of the token economy for the purpose of helping people (both young and old) to increase desirable behaviors and/or decrease undesirable behaviors.

More recently, surveys, studies and scholars (Shean, 2009; Dixon, et al., 2010) have supported the veracity of the previously quoted studies and have spoken on behalf of the token economy as an effective treatment method. The research of Matson and Boisjoli(2009) provides another such example. They noted, “[O]ne of the most important technologies of behavior modifiers and applied behavior analysts over the past 40 years has been the token economy” (p. 240).

Using Token Economies with Children

As mentioned previously, in the early years of the token economy, most of the collected data centered on the issue of assisting adults with brain disorders. But more recently, attention has been focused on youth (both those with special needs and those without). Studies from Zlomke and Zlomke (2003) and LeBlanc (2004) have confirmed the token economy’s effectiveness in increasing attentiveness, decreasing disruptive behavior, increasing intrinsic motivation to complete assigned work, and promoting better social behavior.

A recent survey addressed three important examples in which actual monetary incentives were used to encourage desired behaviors (Gneezy, Meier & Rey-Biel, 2011). The behaviors evaluated were education, increasing contributions for the common good of the community, and helping people change their lifestyles. For the purposes of this article, the focus will be on the results from the education study only. The researchers summarized their findings as follows:

  1. Incentives work well for increasing attendance and enrollment. Furthermore, “Programs using incentives to reward enrollment and school attendance in the short term is positive” (p. 196).
  2. Incentives have mixed results on effort and achievement. In addition, “[The] overall effects of the incentives were modest with a significant effect for students on the threshold meeting the achievement standard” (p. 197).
  3. Incentives seem to work for some students, but not for all. Nonetheless, “These [rewarded] students continued to outperform their control group peers in the long run after the incentives ended…” (p. 197).

One of the most recent and inclusive reviews (2013) involved a team of researchers from Gonzaga University (Doll, McLaughlin & Barretto), who evaluated the use of token economies in various home and school studies. The criterion for inclusion in the analysis was studies that implemented token economies in academic settings. What follows is an abbreviated summary of their conclusions:

  1. Token economies have been found to be an effective method of behavior management across school and community settings.
  2. There has been a sharp decline in the number of recent studies on token economies since the 1980s. They suggested one possible reason for this decline is that the existing amount of overwhelming data and research corroborates the method’s effectiveness.
  3. Elementary school settings are much more likely to implement a token economy. The studies within this group showed that children who received incentives displayed a clear increase in assignment completion rates, a decrease in inappropriate behavior, higher rates of reaching desired target behavior, and higher rates of appropriate behavior as measured through assignment completion.
  4. Middle school classroom studies showed many instances of increased positive behaviors and significantly decreased inappropriate behaviors as the result of a token economy. Other investigations revealed that social behavior and academic achievement improved with token reinforcement.
  5. Token economies occur much less frequently in high schools than in elementary and middle schools; yet, where token economies were implemented in high school environments, increases in on-task behavior were found.
  6. Community and home programs focusing on token economies were also deemed effective. Implementing the method in children’s homes produced a corresponding reduction or increase in behaviors that are found in the school setting. The provision of tokens at home resulted in improved classroom performance and study behavior. Partnerships between the classroom teacher and parent or guardian can play an effective role in behavior modification.

Practical Tips for Token Economy Implementation

These same researchers reviewed some of the criticisms and concerns that have emerged regarding the use of a token economy: accusations of bribery or blackmail, students’ dependence on tokens and consequent lack of intrinsic motivation (failure to generalize), increased staff workload and cost. These are all important issues, which can be addressed appropriately with creative thinking and planning. For example, failure to generalize can be minimized through the following methods:

  • Focusing on one target behavior (e.g. walking five miles) so participants know what they must do to earn the incentive
  • Considering the age, maturity and mental capacities of participants when determining how long it should take to reach the goal (must be reasonable)
  • Selecting incentives that are visible, countable, attractive, and perceived as highly valuable by the recipients (in other words, they should covet the awards because they are meaningful or provide status), or providing backup reinforcers: privileges or activities that are worthwhile (time off, extra playground time, etc.)
  • Giving awards immediately to successful participants when they reach the goal
  • Providing recipients with periodic reminders of the benefits the desired behavior change will confer upon the recipients after the flow of tokens has ceased.

The increase to staff workload can be minimized through the following methods:

  • Providing clear and simple directions to staff
  • Selecting uncomplicated target behaviors that are easy for staff members to explain
  • Holding participants accountable for keeping personal records of tokens
  • Ensuring the staff is consistent in maintaining the token economy

Costs can be managed through the following methods:

  • Selecting target behaviors that are challenging (though still reasonable)
  • Having participants work with staff to select tokens and backup reinforcers
  • Determining token value of behavior on monetary value
  • Providing extra free time (or similar non-cost rewards) to those who reach their behavior goals or demonstrate improvement

The opinion that token economy is nothing more than bribery or blackmail is not widespread, nor does it stand up to common sense. Virtually every culture provides some type of bartering or exchange for goods. It’s also quite safe to say that money, rewards and recognition are desired by all people. If you doubt that statement, ask yourself this question: Do you like hearing “I love you” or “thank you” from others?If so, then you understand the sort of cause and effect that we are talking about, which is far removed from manipulation or bribery.

Setting Up for Success

The token economy is highly effective, and homebrew systems abound. A quick internet search turns up myriads of practical literature, such as Morin’s (n.d.) “Create a Token Economy System to Improve Your Child’s Behaviors” page on About.com, with numerous recommendations for how to incorporate a token economy, in the home or the classroom, for increasing desirable behaviors or decreasing undesirable behaviors.


Works Cited

Doll, D., McLaughlin, T. F., & Barretto, A. (2013 July). The token economy: A recent review and evaluation. International Journal of Basic and Applied Science, 2(1), 131-149.

Dixon, L. B., et al. (2010). The 2009 schizophrenia PORT psychosocial treatment recommendations and summary statements. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 36(1), 48-70.

Gneezy, U., Meier, S., & Rey-Biel, P. (2011). When and why incentives (don’t) work to modify behavior. Journal of Economic Perspectives,25(4), 191-210.

Jackson, K., & Hackenberg, T. D. (1996 July). Token reinforcement, choice and self-control in pigeons. Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior,66(1), 29-49.

Kazdin, A. E. (1982). The token economy: A decade later. Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, 15(3), 431-45.

Kazdin, A. E., & Bootzin, R. R. (1972 Fall). The token economy: an evaluative review. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis,5(3), 343-72.

Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, a’s, praise and other bribes. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Kohn, A. (2005). Unconditional parenting: moving from rewards and punishments to rewards and punishments. New York, NY: Artia Books.

LeBlanc, G. (2004 Fall). Enhancing intrinsic motivation through the use of token economy. Essays in Education, 11.

Liberman, R. P. (2000, Sept). The token economy. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(9), 1398.

Matson, J. L., & Boisjoli, J. A. (2009 Mar-Apr). The token economy for children with intellectual disability and/or autism: A review. Research in Development Disabilities, 30(2), 240-8.

Morin. A. Create a token economy system to improve your child’s behaviors. Retrieved from http://discipline.about.com/od/increasepositivebehaviors/a/Create-A-Token-Economy-System-To-Improve-Your-Childs-Behaviors.htm

Paul, G. L., & Lentz, R. J. (1977). Psychosocial treatment of chronic mental patients: Milieu versus social-learning programs. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Shean, G. D. (2009 Winter). Evidence-based psychosocial practices and recovery from schizophrenia. Psychiatry, 72(4), 307-20.

Zlomke, K., & Zlomke, L. (2003). Token economy plus self-monitoring to reduce disruptive classroom behaviors. The Behavior Analyst Today, 4(2), 177-182.

Grit: The Key to Achievement

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Young man running up bleachers.

Grit.  It is a great word.  Look it up in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary and you’ll find: “Firmness of mind and spirit or unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.”  Wow!

During the past 50-plus years I have been blessed to have the opportunities to coach (six years), teach (16 years), consult and write (20 years) and co-own a business (39 years).  I estimate that I have coached, taught, consulted, hired and worked with more than 9,000 people in my lifetime.  Since I have had the good fortune to interact with that many people on a frequent basis I think I developed a pretty good sense for how people navigate their successes and failures in life.

When I was young and very naive I assumed that the highly intelligent (or educated), wealthy and privileged people were those people who achieved the most in life.  Since I was a C-student, my self-esteem was pretty low and I felt I could never achieve.  As I got older, however, my experiences in life, my mentors and acquaintances taught me by example and word to see the world differently.  I discovered that those who had to fight to survive, scratch out a living, overcome disabilities and deal with mind-boggling challenges were the people of achievement.  I realized that achievements in life (positive relationships, business successes, professional respect and life satisfaction) come not only to the intelligent, educated, wealthy or lucky but to those who have grit.

Grit means working through life’s challenges and disappointments, giving your best effort despite your failures and disappointments and keeping your nose to the grindstone despite minimal or no progress in your endeavors.  Your struggles, tragedies, heartaches and frustrations build your character.  It is in these valleys that we discover who we are.  We develop strength and passion to carry on even while in the midst of defeat, disillusionment and discontent.

As I look back on my personal successes I discover that I am pleased with what I’ve accomplished.  However, except for the satisfaction of working through a thorny problem and perhaps getting some insight on how things work, I find that the life lessons learned with success tend to be few.  In fact, sometimes there is a dark side to achievement.  In my life, that murky side caused me to develop a haughtiness that was counter-productive to improving my relationships and keeping my ego in check.

On the other hand, when I review my setbacks and failures I often learn new and surprisingly important things.  These might included improving my skill-set in professional tasks, upgrading my relationships and better seeing the wonder of this world.  I also discover a new enthusiasm to reach down inside myself and continue to fight the good fight to solve a problem or issue.  Many times I discover that the pursuit of the goal to fix or solve the problem becomes invigorating.  You can even say that at times it is enjoyable.  The old saying “getting there is half the fun” holds true for me.

With the epiphany that grit is essential for achievement I began to think more on my assumption that people with grit are the ones who achieve mighty things in life.  Since my field of interest and study involved fitness, exercise and healthy living I read, studied and lectured on challenges people experienced as they engaged in active living.  I was also inspired by Frank Gifford’s book Courage in Sports (Gifford, 1975).

To analyze my thesis further, I wrote a book about average people who were faced with challenges of various types yet found ways to overcome their supposed restrictions and became regular exercisers (They Accepted the Challenge, St. Martin’s Press, 1980).

To get the book going, I contacted many of my YMCA friends across North America and asked if they could provide me with names of people who were a great inspiration to others working out at their Y.  That is, people, who exercise despite having powerful reasons not to exercise.  In other words, I wanted to talk to high achievers.  I received a list of over 100 names.  I narrowed the names to 30 people, then my co-author Lyn Cryderman and I interviewed each of them over the phone.  From that list we selected 18 people for me to visit.  Almost to a person their reaction was: “Why me?  But if you think my story is something that will help others I am willing to tell my story.”  When I visited them I probed their lives and their motivations.  It was a remarkable opportunity and honor to speak with them.

Those I interviewed were not celebrities or professional athletes.  They never set a world record or won the Boston Marathon.  However, they were men and women whose personal athletic achievements were, from my perspective, on an Olympic level, and whose reserves of courage and determination elevated them to the rank of superstar.  All 18 were gritty individuals bent on doing what they wanted to do with exercise; no one was going to stop them from chasing after their dreams.

They talked to me about their disappointments and frustrations. They highlighted their joys and support from others.  With few exceptions they were incredibly positive.  Most said: “I am what I am today because of my challenge.”  Very few used the word handicapped.  One young girl captured the tone of these hearty people: “I don’t know why what I do is such a big deal.   I am no different that any other player on the team.  I just happen to have no lower right leg and a couple of toes missing on my left foot.”

Although I wrote the book 33 years ago, I still think of my conversations with these challenge super-heroes.  Many are gone, but the lessons they taught me were truly significant.  They were driven in their pursuit of fitness.  They had a surprising amount of willpower and drive that helped them overcome a challenge that would put most people into an easy chair.

These interviews were life-changing for me and I shared their stories to encourage others.  I was truly affected by their will to achieve.  They humbled me.  Others did not see our book that way.  One cynical book reviewer wrote: “I don’t like this book because it takes away all of my excuses for not exercising.”  My answer to his review: You got it!

A current thinker and shaper of character development and achievement is Dr. Angela L. Duckworth from the University of Pennsylvania.  In fact, my decision to use the title Grit is a bow to her life’s work.  Her work about achievement is spot on.  Her research confirms my experiences with my cadre of 18 high achievers and surviving life.  I think it has great implications for those who work with young children and their struggles to achieve.

For more information on Dr. Angela Duckworth go to: https://sites.sas.upenn.edu/duckworth.  You’ll get lots of information on achievement.  If you click on “Research” when you get there you’ll find an eight-item “grit scale” that you may want to give to your children.  You can view her TED talk here: http://goo.gl/asYSA

Next time I want to talk about an uncomfortable subject:  how our culture is discouraging young people to have grit.

The Difference One Teacher Can Make

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Classes have resumed for K-12 students and teachers across the nation.  As we at Fitness Finders help people stock up for the coming year, I am reminded of the great importance of teachers to the future of our country.  Teachers are the leaders of maturation for the children of America.

It’s not just the knowledge imparted, chosen by a state or board curriculum, even though these skills are prerequisites to later success.  It is not the ability to follow directions, started in kindergarten and reinforced in each grade (a discipline necessary to thrive in the future).  In my opinion, the power of teachers lies in the influence they impart on growing minds.

Helping a student with class work.

Teachers are constantly communicating who they are and what they care about, every school day, to the classes of young minds in front of them.  Young minds are watching and learning, even when you think they aren’t.   Instructors are role models whose professionalism imprints on young minds.  The causes they champion, whether academic, character-based or social issues, the things they say, the attitudes they portray, the standards they hold, are all imprinted on young minds.  None of us are value free, no matter how broad-minded our actions, words and thoughts may be, and this becomes the backdrop of the stage that is a child’s mind.  As these students think on history and politics and literature, as they decide how to behave and what actions to take, this backdrop will be there subtly influencing the beliefs and perceptions that swirl around as they grow and mature.  Therefore, we must think carefully about the programs, the dialogues, and the speeches we share with those entrusted to our care.  Once we realize we are imparting critical truths and values, they must be repeated with regularity, as all learning theory tells us.  Regular feedback of a consistent message creates learning.  This is also how we create habits.  Healthy values, healthy bodies and healthy ideas will develop a healthy generation.

Every teacher plans lessons for the day and the week ahead.  Take a minute and plan for the lessons that aren’t formal, not part of the curriculum, but equally as important (if not more important) for the success of future generations.

Physical Education: Encouraging Parent Involvement

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

For most parents, chances are that the mention of “PE” calls to mind visions of supervised dodgeball in a dank elementary school gym once or twice a week. Of course, the value and benefit of physical education has been championed in recent years, and public perception has begun to swing in a positive direction, and just at the right time. Truth be told, in today’s culture of sedentary lifestyles and technological cocoons, the physical education classroom may be the only place where many children get any exercise at all.

Holistic approaches to education have driven the idea of educating the whole child, including the body. “A sound mind in a healthy body”, runs the famous quote. According to this idea, physical education should be treated as an academic discipline and given weight equal to any other subject (Siedentop, 2009). According to a survey done just after the turn of the century by the National Association of Sports & Physical Education, an overwhelming majority of parents (95%) believe that physical education is a necessary and valuable part of school curriculum.

Although the field of physical education has evolved rapidly, parental involvement has not kept pace. It is time for physical educators to win parents over and find ways for them to be involved in their children’s physical education. Whether you are a parent or a physical educator, we hope that you find some of the tips below to be helpful.

  • Introduce PE “home fun.” If PE is an academic discipline, then it stands to reason that students should be given “homework” of a sort. This will reinforce that PE is not just something that takes place at school, and will have the added benefit of (ideally) involving their parents, since PE will enter the home environment.
  • Host PE activities that children and parents can participate in together. Athletic achievements get lots of recognition from parents, but simple daily physical activity goes unnoticed and unremarked. Since work-a-day adults often cannot be present during the school day, try hosting a 5K walk for parent-child teams, or inviting parents to Field Day.
  • Join your school’s PTA group. John Baker, former IAHPERD President and PE Teacher of the Year, notes that engaging with parents through the PTA gives him a platform for ongoing with conversation with parents. In addition, by advocating to the PTA, you recruit agents for change; school administrators are likely to listen to parent representatives, and if you can get them on board with your mission, you can encourage physical education policy changes.
  • Build awareness of the importance of eating choices. Nutrition education is woefully underemphasized in most schools and in homes across the nation. In the NASPE study referenced above, while most parents stated that they actively encourage physical activity, only 50% of parents indicated that they restrict their children’s intake of unhealthy snacks and drinks. Perhaps you can collaborate with health professionals from your school or community to broach the topic and brainstorm solutions, for both school and home.

Further Reading

Siedentop, D. (2009). The heritage of physical education, sport, and fitness in the United States. Introduction to physical education, fitness, and sport (7th ed.). Columbus: Ohio State University.

Melanie. (2012). PE advocacy – get parents involved! Retrieved from pe4lifeblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/pe-advocacy-get-parents-involved.html

National Association for Sport & Physical Education. (2003). Parents’ views of children’s health and fitness: A summary of results. www.aahperd.org/naspe

National Association for Sport & Physical Education. (2011). Physical education is critical to educating the whole child. www.aahperd.org/naspe

Rink, J., Hall, T., & Williams, L. (2010). Schoolwide physical activity: A comprehensive guide to designing and conducting programs. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Building Blocks: 5 Benefits of Reading

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Child Reading

There is an ongoing debate regarding the decline of literacy and its causes.  Some blame the rise of the internet surfing among youth as the culprit; others argue that print media is slowly going the way of the buffalo, and that being “well-read” is not an essential asset our digital age.

We would instead like to examine how literacy positively impacts education, because we believe good reading skills to be a cornerstone of the educational process.  Below we have highlighted five important benefits of readerly persistence.

  1. Reading is a Foundational Skill for Mastering Other Disciplines. We often take for granted the critical role reading skills play in a student’s success in other areas of learning.  It’s easy to think of math and the hard sciences as being unrelated to literacy.  However, students may grasp mathematical concepts and operations, but struggle to interpret the wording of problems (Metsisto, 2005).  Many math and science teachers find an astonishing percentage of their tutelage to be consumed by simplifying and rewording questions.
  2. Reading Improves Critical Thinking. Critical reading involves more than just the ability to comprehend strings of words; it tests the reader’s ability to take apart a text, understand the author’s worldview and interact with the themes presented.  While skimming may be easier, and a sometimes necessary skill, encouraging students to mentally interact with what they are reading can help them boost their critical thinking skills.
  3. Reading Expands Vocabulary. Vocabulary growth and reading comprehension are inextricably linked.  The better a child’s reading skills are, the better their vocabulary becomes; the better their vocabulary is, the better they are at decoding new, unfamiliar words; the better their word decoding skills, the better they are at reading (Verhoeven, et al., 2011).  Studies have shown that kids who read as little as ten minutes per day outside of school will find themselves considerably ahead of the rest of their age group (Nagy & Anderson, 1984).
  4. Better Readers are Better Writers. Writing is an invaluable life skill and research has shown that reading fluency and writing skill are tightly correlated (Brummitt-Yale, n.d.).  Reading across the genre spectrum is particularly helpful, as it allows children to experience various narratives, structures and styles.  Educators can bolster students’ literary development in circular fashion by teaching reading and writing as two sides of the same coin.  Students may benefit greatly from an explanation of how the two skills complement each other.
  5. Reading Books Improves Concentration. Experts have noted that the digital age has triggered an attention-span famine.  The issue is not that digital content is somehow lesser, but that the way it is presented (mostly in snippets, sound bites and microblogs) fundamentally alters our neural makeup.  Online we tend to skim in a staccato pattern, not fully absorbing what we read.  Our brains’ ability to critically interact with ideas, which is the key to unlocking the true value of reading, remains disengaged when rewired by the blogosphere (Carr, 2008).  On the other hand, reading books and lengthier articles (digital or print) confers concentration benefits that will positively affect a child’s entire academic career.

Want to discuss this post or point out something we didn’t mention? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

    References

    Brummitt-Yale, J. (n.d.).  The relationship between reading and writing. Retrieved from http://www.k12reader.com/the-relationship-between-reading-and-writing/

    Carr, N. (2008).  Is Google making us stupid?  What the internet doing to our brains.  The Atlantic, July/August 2008.  Retrieved from www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/

    Metsisto, D. (2005).  Reading in the mathematics classroom.  In J.M. Kenney (ed.), Literacy strategies for improving mathematics instruction (ch. 2). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

    Nagy, W., & Anderson, R.C. (1984).  How many words are there in printed school English?  Reading Research Quarterly, 19, 304-330.

    Verhoeven, L., van Leeuwe, J., & Vermeer, A. (2011).  Vocabulary growth and reading development across the elementary school years.  Scientific Studies of Reading, 15(1), 18-19.

    Mileage Club® Continues to Make Headlines

    Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

    We love hearing how teachers are using the Mileage Club and the impact it is having on their students.  Check out what physical education teacher Steve Burton is doing at Bass-Hoover Elementary School:

    “Perfect pace: Bass-Hoover’s ‘Stinger Stompers’ logging more miles”

    Great job Steve!

    Breast Cancer (Body Count – Part II)

    Friday, November 2nd, 2012

    As explained previously, different governments use the expression Body Count to update the public on the number of violent deaths that occurred because of war or military action. These reports may be given daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Since a number of deaths occur in North America because of unhealthy habits we want to remind the public how many people die daily, weekly, etc. due to engaging in these potentially dangerous risk factors (sedentary behavior, poor diet, smoking, etc.).

    The Numbers
    Lack of physical activity (or lack of exercise, if you prefer) is a major risk factor in breast cancer. Currently in North America (U.S. & Canada) lack of physical activity may cause as many as 1 in 4 breast cancer deaths.* Let’s translate that information to real Body Count deaths:

    • Annually, breast cancer claims 44,665 lives. Of these deaths, 12,417 are due to a lack of exercise.
    • Each month, breast cancer claims 3,722 lives. Of these deaths, 1,034 are due to a lack of exercise.
    • Every week, breast cancer claims 859 live. Of these deaths, 239 are due to a lack of exercise.
    • Every day, breast cancer claims 122 lives. Of these deaths, 34 are due to a lack of exercise.

    Let’s Look At This Another Way**
    Breast cancer claims a life every 42 minutes due to physical inactivity.

    What’s the Connection?
    I’m glad you asked. Above I cited that 12,000 people die annually from breast cancer in North America because they do not get enough exercise. The role of exercise in reducing breast cancer risk is based currently on two possible factors. The first is that physical activity helps reduce the amount of undesirable weight and/or body fat. Higher levels of obesity are associated with breast cancer risk. The second factor may be a hormonal connection. Regular physical activity is known to reduce levels of estrogen, testosterone and insulin. Higher levels of these hormones predispose a person to increased breast cancer risk. Using insulin as an example, Dr. Celia Byrne and her associates at Harvard University discovered that increased C-peptide (an insulin production marker) levels are higher in women with breast cancer. Interestingly, however, women who exercise on a regular basis have lower levels of C-peptide suggesting that physical activity decreases insulin levels and therefore breast cancer.

    An Easy Fix
    Lack of physical activity is an easy fix. To reduce the risk of breast cancer through physical activity, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity during the week (50 minutes 3 times a week or ~37 minutes 4 times a week—that’s 1-1/2% of your 24 hour day) does the trick. Even if you can’t squeeze in the 150 minutes/week learn to build physical activity into your life. Never lie down when you can sit. Never sit when you can stand. Never stand when you can walk. Never walk when you can run, bike, swim, jog, jump……..

    *Lee, I, Shiroma, EJ, Lobelo F. et al. The Lancet, Published online 7/18/12

    **© 2012, Fitness Finders, Inc. Permission granted to use provided recognition is given to Fitness Finders, Inc (1007 Hurst Rd, Jackson MI, 49201)

    Body Count (Part 1)

    Friday, October 19th, 2012

    The U.S government (and other countries) use the expression Body Count to update the public on the number of violent deaths that occurred because of war or military action. These reports may be given daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Since a number of deaths occur in North America because of unhealthy habits we want to remind the public how many people die daily, weekly etc. due to engaging in these potentially dangerous risk factors (sedentary behavior, poor diet, smoking, etc.).

    An American Epidemic
    Lack of physical activity (or exercise, if you prefer) is a major risk factor in heart disease. Currently in North America (U.S. & Canada) lack of physical activity may cause as many as 1 in 6 heart disease deaths.* Let’s translate that information to real Body Count deaths.

    The Numbers
    Body Count
    Think about the realities of these numbers. Almost 112,500 people die in North America because they live a lifestyle that lacks exercise. Imagine the public uproar if that many people died annually from auto accidents, excessive alcohol consumption or being shot with a gun.

    An Easy Fix
    Lack of physical activity is an easy fix. To reduce the risk of heart disease through physical activity, 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity during the week (50 minutes 3 times a week or ~37 minutes 4 times a week—that’s 1-1/2% of your 24 hour day) does the trick. How does lack of sedentary behavior increase our heart disease risk? Not getting sufficient exercise may encourage an increase in obesity/overweight and abdominal fat, development of undesirable blood cholesterol profiles, elevated blood pressures and triglyceride levels and a predisposition toward type 2 Diabetes. Get moving!

    *Reference: Lee, I, Shiroma, EJ, Lobelo F. et al. The Lancet, Published online 7/18/12

    360,000,000 Minutes of Activity a Year!

    Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

    The power of the teachers using the Mileage Club® to help fight youth obesity and help get Americans moving is truly amazing. Here’s why.

    The Numbers
    Each year we have at least 10,000 schools committed to using the Mileage Club. There are approximately 275 children per school. Our local project, started in 1986 (consisting of 30-32 schools), for example, has shown over the years that in an 8 to 10 week period of time (2 to 3 x a week) the typical child walks/runs 11-15 miles. We have found these distances to be characteristic of other Mileage Club schools. Now, using this as a conservative sample (many schools run the program more than 10 weeks), let’s say the normal child walks/runs a mile in 12 minutes. These numbers show some extraordinary results.

    Let’s Do the Math

    • 10,000 schools x 275 children = 2,750,000 children each year engaged in the Mileage Club.
    • 2,750,000 children x 11 miles = 30,250,000 miles a year.
    • 30,250,000 miles x 12 minutes = 363,000,000 minutes of exercise per year!

    In Perspective
    1,200 Laps Around the Planet.
    More Students Participating in Mileage Club than People that Live in Chicago.
    Students had a Combined Exercised Duration of 690 Years.

    WOW! That Is Impressive.
    Thanks to all physical education and classroom teachers, principals, playground supervisors, parents (especially PTA/PTOs) for your incredible support in helping us all Shape America’s Youth. You have been fabulous.

    Feelin Good® Mileage Club® Continues to Make News!

    Thursday, January 26th, 2012

    Check out how one of our customers is having an impact in St. Louis.

    Teacher’s Mileage Club Gets Students Moving