Preventive health care US-style!

It’s increasingly common for colleges and universities, like other businesses, to offer the employees they insure incentives for staying healthy. And that makes sense; experts agree it’s a lot cheaper to treat illnesses earlier rather than later, or to prevent them altogether. But instead of offering “carrots” to its employees for seeking preventive care, Pennsylvania State University starting this fall is opting for the “stick,” imposing a $100 monthly surcharge on those who don’t meet new health requirements.

via Penn State faculty object to details of a new preventive health care plan | Inside Higher Ed. via Stephen Downes

As noted by Stephen Downes in his link to this article, it would not be likely that a government could impose this level of invasiveness and discrimination, but private health insurance seems to be able to do so. Thank goodness that, at least currently, Canadia and Australia both have public health funding!

Taking a stand on sedentary

The idea is to get everybody off their chairs while they work,” says Vanessa Dunne, Infiniti’s sales and marketing co-ordinator. The concept of this alternative workspace gained, ahem, traction with Quinn when reports started filtering in from the United States that the treadmill desk had been sold to the White House, Google, and a number of high-ranking companies.

via Taking a stand on sedentary.

It seems that the desire to incorporate “unthinking exercise” into one’s routine is a bit misplaced – walking up stairs instead of taking the lift expends human energy instead of electricity in a task that is already on the agenda, whereas walking on a treadmill while working is irrelevant energy expenditure and doesn’t involve skill development of any sort … somehow it doesn’t make sense to me.

The cricket curse facing private schoolboys

You can’t imagine a 16-year-old Michael Clarke having to miss a net session to rehearse for The Mikado, or make sure he did his euphonium practice. Clarke went to a sports high school and his parents ran an indoor cricket centre. He had the time, the inclination and the facilities to hit balls for hours on end.

via The cricket curse facing private schoolboys – The Drum (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Interesting statistics on the number of state versus private school kiddies to play test cricket for Australia (and interestingly, the stats are quite different in Pommy-land).

Greg Chappell underscores the importance of playing against adults at a young age. There are comments regarding the shorter seasons in private school comps, the weaker level of competition, and the very good facilities (ie the pampering).

My own take on sport at private schools is that by ensuring that all sport is school-related, there is not only the problems outlined here at an elite level, but when students leave school, they are not connected to local sporting clubs and so sport finishes when school does. This is exacerbated by the lack of clubs and societies support at universities and the lack of active campus culture and available playing fields at places like Swinburne.

Grand Master Choi, President of the International Taekwon-Do Federation, visits the lab

Grand Master ChoiYesterday, we were honoured by an informal visit from Grand Master Choi Jung Hwa, Grand Master Han, Master Michael Muleta and Mr Spiridon Cariotis to our new lab to talk about our martial arts research program. So far, we have published a paper on the impact of marketing a martial art as a sport, and we have considered the curriculum of taekwon-do in terms of its structured development of 4D spatiotemporal awareness (3 dimensions of space, plus a fourth dimension of time) and its role in the development of expert skilled performance. We discussed the potential of using our Qualisys motion capture system to capture kinematic information for use in research and in training.

ChoiVisit2sm While one primary focus of interest is with respect to the force and velocity generated by different techniques and different ways of moving, we also discussed research on decision-making and “reading the play” in sparring and self-defence scenarios, including in terms of judging and refereeing tournaments, and in the context of evaluating threats and interpreting aggressive intent.

Players pay a lifelong price: study

The study, titled Life after the game – Injury profile of past elite Australian Football players, was carried out by five academics and also showed that 73 per cent of the players surveyed suffered a concussion at least once during their career.

The study reported a high incidence of multiple concussions.The abstract of the study referred to research into ex-players mental and physical health – including disease prevalence – education, employment, lifestyle behaviours, and their ongoing relationship with the game. It suggested that further investigation could improve the quality of life of retired footballers.

via Players pay a lifelong price: study.

While this seems to provide compelling data about the effects of football, what I suspect it doesn’t do is provide a contrast with other professions – for example, what are the long term effects on the health of athletes competing in gymnastics, diving, soccer (where heading the ball is part of the game). Even more importantly, what are the long term effects on the health of people working in the mining industry, or the building industry, or in the military (e.g., fighter pilots/SAS), or paramedics … ?

So yes, AFL football is dangerous – but seriously, David Parkin, is it more a “more difficult game” than ice-hockey, (Irish) hurling, downhill skiing, motocross? And do the players have a choice in how they play the game or what game they play? I think so.

The Future of Health and Fitness

The Future of Health and Fitness.

This article from The Age shows the sorts of things we should be keeping an eye on and highlights the vacuous level of technology writing.

Which of these digital technologies can really be used in training, or in health care? What sort of research do we need in terms of the non-obvious issues – e.g., bypassing traditional sources of expertise, and removing redundancy and opportunities to discuss things from different perspectives. For example, if I am able to monitor my own blood pressure, visual acuity, E coli levels etc, that is all well and good, but do I know how to interpret the information?

What do the individual symptoms tell me? What do the combination of symptoms tell me? Do I need a doctor if I have Google? And who will be responsible for my care if I end up having to do all the monitoring myself?

What is the role of DNA testing in our future – what can we really do with the information? And what happens when we live forever? If you consider the things our research is focused on, we are already bored with our lives – how will this boredom play out if we live forever?!

“Fun Fitness” seems to think that playing electronic games will make people enjoy exercise. They don’t seem to have considered that one of the fun things about electronic games is that you don’t need to get hot and sweaty to do exciting things. You don’t need to go outdoors to play sport. People seem to be able to get away with dumb statements like “Games aid learning and make long term positive behaviour more likely to continue” – where is the evidence for this? What is “long term positive behaviour”? What “learning” has taken place?

And the role of Google Glasses in injury rehab is new to me (Kinect I get, but not sure what Google Glasses will do in this domain).

“The real strength in these quantified self-devices is their ability to make positive behaviour change in an individual,”

Really? Really? Quantification leads to positive behaviour change? Since when?

Perhaps what we should be doing is taking the many many many articles like this as templates for the real articles we should write (ie tackle each of these topics properly) and make a repository of such articles.

This is my favorite fitness site that introduces strength training to people who are not your traditional exercisers. Krista Scott-Dixon is a former academic (or still an academic, but not formally employed by a university) in Women’s Studies who writes very powerful stuff on training and nutrition.