Wednesday, October 8, 2008

N.F.L. Sets an Active Example on Fitness

“The children playing football next to the East River in Manhattan on Tuesday did not look like a demographic in trouble, just kids looking for a game after school. But they were the target audience for the N.F.L.’s annual day of service in support of Play 60, its effort to stop childhood obesity by encouraging children to be active for at least an hour a day. Across the country, players rebuilt parks, conducted football clinics and, unintentionally or not, used their physical appearance to send a message: ignore the girth, even the biggest guys can move. The N.F.L., full of 300-pound men and reliant on the high schools and colleges that propel more large boys into the pipeline, would seem an incongruous standard-bearer for the cause. Childhood obesity experts, however, say athletes present powerful body image role models, particularly for boys. And the N.F.L. picked the cause in part because it figured children would be more likely to listen to athletes on an issue that was clearly relevant to their success: taking care of their bodies. The Carolina Panthers planned to take children rafting. The Kansas City Chiefs were building a playground. Several teams were building fitness rooms at local community centers. In New Orleans, the Saints were planning to take part in a school’s field day. ‘Maybe it’s all that Southern cooking, and it gets so hot, most people think they have to stay inside,’ Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. ‘It’s even more important in those areas where you know people have a higher percentage of weight problems.’ He added, ‘Kids will never listen to their parents, but if you get an athlete or an entertainer, the message may get through.’”

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