Physical activity – to live long and prosper

This summer I have been reading the book Two Days in June (ISBN 978-0-7710-2387-3) by author and journalist Andrew Cohen. The book describes in depth the thoughts and actions of John F. Kennedy during an eventful two-day period of his presidency in June 1963. I always thought that I knew a lot about this great man, but Two Days in June has given me so much more insight – particularly regarding JFK’s thoughts on nuclear disarmament and civil rights.

I also learned that President Kennedy championed the benefits of physical fitness for the nation. In fact, he wrote an article entitled ‘The Soft American’ in the December 26, 1960 issue of Sports Illustrated to sound the alarm over the United States’ declining physical fitness. Once he became president, Kennedy took action. Amongst other measures, he established a White House Committee on Health and Fitness, as well as an annual Youth Fitness Congress attended by state governors.

If I was prime minister of Canada (ha! … now that’s a scary thought), I would make physical fitness the business of the federal government. Programs to increase public and youth fitness would become major countermeasures against the rising burden and crippling costs of chronic disease. It’s a no-brainer – we already know that regular physical activity can prevent or manage medical illnesses including cardio- and cerebrovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, depression, certain types of cancer and arthritis. It can increase longevity and improve our quality of life. It can even improve cognitive function.

I have participated in sports all of my life. When I was young, I played sports simply because it was fun. It gave me the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and to unwind with family and friends in an enjoyable social setting. A good state of fitness opened a world of adventure to me … I scuba dove some of the best reefs, I trekked in the Himalayas, I pursued a career as an astronaut.

I continue to exercise regularly. In fact, I feel out-of-sorts when I am unable to include a workout into my schedule. The day is somehow not complete.

Besides health, physical activity has also provided me with a lot of fond memories. These memories are usually centered around teammates, coaches and families. I recently got together one evening with former Lord Beaverbrook High School teammates Randy Bryant and Ron Tibbatts. You’ve never heard of Randy and Ron but these two people are special to me. We played community hockey and wrestled together. Over our dinner (btw ‘The Broken Plate’ restaurant is highly recommended), we reminisced about championships, other teammates and our superb coaches.

Participation in sports is formative. I don’t have any data to back this statement up, but I perceive that people with a solid background in sports (particularly team sports) are more likely to succeed in life. Randy and Ron are good people with significant career accomplishments, admirable attitudes and wonderful families. They inspire me and I enjoy being with them.

Dinner with former teammates Randy Bryant and Ron Tibbats, and spouses Debbie and Sonia

Dinner with former teammates Randy Bryant and Ron Tibbats, and spouses Debbie and Sonia

The opening ceremonies for the Rio Olympics Games will be televised this evening. This pageant signals that for the next two weeks I will be ensconced in front of my TV watching, cheering and living vicariously through the accomplishments and sportsmanship of the phenomenal athletes.

Speaking of wrestling, I will be cheering loudly for the Canadian women’s and men’s Olympic wrestling teams. I had the pleasure earlier this year to confer a Bachelor of Arts in sociology degree on Olympic wrestler Erica Wiebe during a University of Calgary convocation ceremony. Erica and I had the opportunity to chat afterward and I wished her well. All the members of our women’s and men’s wrestling teams are intelligent, strong and well-trained. They will succeed in Rio.

Erica Wiebe will compete in the freestyle 75-kg weight class -- the heavyweight division -- in Rio on August 18

Erica Wiebe will compete in the freestyle 75-kg weight class — the heavyweight division — in Rio on August 18

Good luck, everyone. Faster, Higher, Stronger!

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