A PHYSICAL FITNESS CRUSADE
By DR. F. W. W. GRIFFIN*
/11HE case for a Physical Fitness Crusade in itself hardly needs arguing. Such a crusade need not imply militarization of the young—a fear of war—nor even a fear of ill-health. It might best be launched as a game, with special rewards for all its players in the form of greater enjoyment of life. It would have to have a national appeal ; its activities must embrace the various health-promoting activities, and it must lend itself to displays and competitions. It might well evolve gradually from the present interest in hiking, cycling, camping, gymnastics, and the other athletic interests, rather than be promoted as a new scheme.
Lord Baden-Powell takes this standpoint in his final message to the Boy Scout Movement before leaving for Australia. He - urges that the open-air culture which has characterized its programme must now be augmented by the adoption of some system of physical training which will appeal to boys, result in improved health and stamina, commend itself to kindred movements, and so raise the physical standard of a large proportion of the future manhood of the country. "Our difficulty" he writes in the October Scouter, "is to find a method. Mere physical drill for ten minutes a week does not exactly tend to build strong men. We must have the interest of the boys themselves in their exercises : firstly through the individual in watching the periodic record of his development in weight and measurements ; and secondly through the activity, health, and enjoyment which be gains through such practices as folk-dancing, relay and other running games, tumbling, ball games, maze movements, &c. These can be expanded to mass exercises and displays on the lines of the Czechoslovakian Sokols which give added interest both to boys and their instructors.' An Adviser for Physical Training is already at work on the construction of a definite scheme, and the necessary modifications for the Guide Movement will doubtless be worked out concurrently. But the need is far wider than this. Clubs for boys and girls, societies primarily concerned in open-air activities, and training centres for the different sports and athletic Pursuits must ultimately be comprehended in any national
There must be special facilities for adolescents and young adults. ' In his annual report on the National health for 1933 Sir George Newman singles out the age- group of 15 to 20 as urgently needing atteirtion,- He Writes: "Experience indicates that the physical con- dition of the boy -and- girl on- leaving school at 14 years of age has all too often a definite tendency to decline in standard before 18 Or 20. Perhaps the strain of industrial life comes too early upon them, or, passing away from- the supervision and discipline of school life, they lack guidance as well as provided facilities. Whatever be the cause or occasion, there is need for more public attention to this *Dr. Griffin is editor of The Scouter and of Tha Journal of the Chartered Society -of Maseaqe and Medial' Gymnastics. problem. Some nations, such as Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, and Soviet Russia, have found it neces- sary, or at least expedient, to direct special attention to the physical care and culture of the adolescents. In England, relying upon the schools of all grades for super- vising conditions of health and physique—which, by the way, is imperfectly accomplished—the State has regarded the physical cultivation of youth as lying outside its province. Various voluntary movements, such as Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, and playing fields associations, have gallantly come to the rescue, but the time may havr come for some subsidizing or constructive action by thee State itself."
What then could the State do ? A chain of training centres for instructors of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides stretches now throughout Great Britain and Ireland, ready to take into their programmes whatever form of practical education for fitness finally commends itself to Lord Baden-Powell. The Lucas-Tooth Institute trains its pupils to be teachers of gymnastics as well as good gymnasts, demonstrating practically to them year by year how much can be done without expensive apparatus or extensive buildings. Both the Boy Scout and Girl Guide centres and the Lucas-Tooth Institute sprang from private philanthropy. Would it not be possible for the State, or for some public-spirited philanthropist, to start similar centres which would train evangelists of physical fitness to go through the length and breadth of the land ? If there should be made available from public or private sources any funds to promote physical fitness, they will be most effectively utilized in the endowing and promoting the training of practical teachers, and then in securing facilities for them to impart their enthusiasm to others.
In village halls and city club-rooms such teachers would train, for example, fencers and experts of wrestling, would promote and instruct the many would-be athletes and direct athletic contests, and would pass on the various other possibilities which would arise in the larger and more experienced centres of an athletically-minded nation. Camping and hiking would develop as hostels multiplied. Knowledge of the physical needs of the body would be propagated by lecturers, advocating activities for which at last full provision had been made.
The State or private philanthropy could endow and instigate competitions. In the Middle Ages, village greens and city spaces accommodated tourneys and physical contests, which would now return in modern forth. Inter-village as well as inter-county sports could be arranged for trophies, for there must be some clearly defined objectives for those who have as yet no realization of the joy in physical well-being and physical healthy self-expression. The laurel crowns of the Greeks faded in a day, but not before they had served their purpose Of stimulating personal endeavour, and raising the physical standard of the- nation. So; today again, by such contests the natural hero-worship of the young may be turned into the practical channel of .emulation of the physically fit. Physical self-respect will prove to be a greater incentive to progress than the fear of war.
In these facilities both sexes. would have to share. Sir George Newman and others have repeatedly pointed out that many risks of maternity would disappear if more attention were paid to the physique of growing girls and young adult women. The home may still be their main field of service, but it should not be their prison or their sole training ground. Girls and women do not always realize that physical health and develop- ment represent an essential of the good housewife and mother. The point is also of national significance, for it can hardly be denied that the offspring of two healthy well-developed parents is more likely to be healthy than that of the imperfectly developed mother wedded to a physically fit father.