In this age of information overload it’s important to teach our students critical thinking skills. For example, I recently saw this web article headline: "Exercise not likely to rev up your metabolism." (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30826120/). This article discusses a study, published in the journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, regarding the issue of burning fat during and after exercise. The authors of that study concluded that while people do burn more fat when they are exercising than when they are not, they have no greater ability to burn fat over the next 24 hours than on days when they are couch potatoes.
The article then quotes Edward Melanson, an exercise physiologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver who was involved in the study, as saying, "If you exercise and replace the calories you burn, you’re no better - with regard to how much fat you burn off - than if you didn’t exercise."
I think Melanson’s point is that if you normally burn 2,500 calories a day and consume 2,500 calories a day, and then increase your exercise so you burn 3,000 calories a day, but then also increase your caloric intake to 3,000 a day you’ll be no better off, in regards to how much fat you burn off.
However, he doesn’t address, for example, the potential difference in terms of the health of your heart and lungs. I have to think, based on physiological principles; you’d be in better overall shape by exercising and staying at the same weight versus not exercising and staying at the same weight (i.e., burning and eating more calories instead of burning and eating fewer calories). That would be the first critical question I’d ask.
Later in the article Melanson does acknowledge the important of exercise, but how many students (or adults) just read headlines and jump to conclusions? Quality Physical Education programs that teach self-management skills, consumer skills and basic physiological principles help students understand that a combination of exercise (actually just good, appropriate physical activity) and sound nutrition is the best approach. Teachers who teach critical thinking give students what they need to evaluate articles and make good decisions concerning their fitness, health, and wellness. They also prepare their students to see through false advertisements. How many times have you seen claims for products that are "guaranteed to help you lose 20 pounds a week without exercise or diet?" Obviously some people must fall for these claims or they wouldn’t keep appearing-but physically educated students shouldn’t.
When I review instructional materials for publication I feel strongly that they should integrate the development of critical thinking skills into their lessons and teaching strategies. Excellent examples of "doing it right" are the Fitness for Life textbooks, which emphasize critical thinking skills and self-responsibility, and are doubly valuable in this context because they also directly address the benefits of a healthful and physically active lifestyle. Click here for more on Fitness for Life.