“Measure Your Belly.” New Zealand Children’s Constructions of Health and Fitness

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Lisette Burrows
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Jan Wright
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Justine Jungersen-Smith
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The expansion of health as a concept, repeated expressions of nationwide concerns about young people’s health, and the accompanying information explosion about health and fitness have worked together to support versions of physical education that explicitly address health issues. The conflation of health with physical education, however, is not without problems. This paper explores some consequences of the relationship between health, fitness, and physical activity through an examination of students’ responses to questions relating to health and fitness in the New Zealand National Education Monitoring Project. The children responding to the NEMP tasks were very familiar with the relationship between physical activity, fitness, and health. While this seems to point to the efficacy of physical and health education programs, the ways in which these children seem to have accepted this relationship with a great deal of certainty does not necessarily contribute to their health and well-being but rather suggests an acceptance of discourses that are associated with guilt, the self-monitoring of the body, and which seem to deny the pleasure that can be associated with physical activity.

Lisette Burrows and Justine Jungersen-Smith are with the School of Physical Education, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand; Jan Wright is with the Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, 2515 Australia.

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