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Sign of the Times (fitness)

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Our experience is that the majority of boys at that age don't have the upper body strength to do pull ups.


Yah, I was struck by SR540's comment. Right after I had looked up the Presidential Fitness Test percentiles. Those show that 70% of 11 year old boys are able to do at least one pull-up, and 75% of the 10 year olds.


Of course, those are old data, eh? Not sure where I got the charts, but I'm sure it was some time ago. 1990s vintage.


Has fitness really become so poor that a majority of scout-aged boys can't do a single pull-up.... and are in fact so weak or overweight that even after 30 days of real practice all they can manage to do is bend their arms a bit farther?


I've always been one to accommodate the occasional lad who had difficulty with pullups, but I confess that the more I see of the trend the more I think we should be holding firm or even increasing our requirements. One of our Aims is Fitness, after all.


Except for cases of real disability, it seems to me that all scouts should work to be "above average" in terms of basic fitness. Flipping through my old report here, that would mean, for a 12-year-old,


3 Pullups

20 Pushups (on 3-second intervals)

40 Situps in a minute

Running a mile in 8:30


Maybe we should put requirements like that in for First Class, eh? Show improvement for Tenderfoot in 30 days, but after a year or year and a half in the troop, reaching an ordinary level of fitness for your age group seems reasonable.


Also solves the "what counts as improvement?" problem.




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Well, I think it's a bad idea, because it would probably turn Scouting into an exercise class, which would have turned me off as a Scout.


Don't get me wrong--being "physically strong" is a good idea. In the other thread, I commented that I was the least athletic kid in the world. This was a slight exageration, but still, the idea of having to do pushups to earn First Class could have easily driven me away. But Scouting, done right, did make me (at least minimally) physically strong.


I did have to learn and demonstrate things that required physical strength, but it wasn't mere physical strength. There were added elements, namely, the activities required some special skill, and/or the activities were fun. For me, some of them were extremely challenging, such as learning how to swim. But learning how to swim wasn't billed as a form of exercise--it was billed as learning a skill (that just happened to involve physical exercise). And once I got past a certain point, it was actually fun. The same is true with paddling a canoe. It involves physical exercise, but it's a distinct skill, and it happens to be fun.


Other activities in scouting, for example hiking, don't necessarily involve any particular skill, but they are an opportunity for exercise, and are presumably done in a way that they are fun. Other activities (such as the dreaded times when I was assigned to "water" on the duty roster), weren't very fun, but they were a necessary part of an otherwise fun activity.


IMHO, if scouting focuses on those kinds of activities, and scouts learn and are tested on these activities, then much of the physical fitness will take care of itself.


When I was a kid, I was probably in the bottom 10% when it came to most athletic activities. Today, I have noticed that I probably would have been about average.


Push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, etc., are probably a good way of _measuring_ physical fitness. But I don't think very many people consider them to be fun activities, and they don't involve any particular skill. If they were a rank requirement for higher ranks, I suspect that a lot of troops would turn their meetings into exercise classes aimed at getting kids to pass the test. And I think that would drive away a lot of the kids (like me) who really need the physical activity the most.


That's not to say there's not a place for it. Had I been confronted with the current Tenderfoot requirements, I probably would have grudgingly exercised for 30 days, and I probably would have eventually managed to do a pull-up. And having done one pull-up, I probably would have figured out that it was physically possible for me to do two pull-ups if I really wanted to. But I doubt if would have thought to myself, "doing pull-ups is fun."


I think most requirements should be things where a Scout, even if he's only grudgingly doing them because they are requirments, should be the kind of things where there's at least a chance that he might actually conclude that they are fun. Maybe everything won't be fun for every scout, but it should at least be a theoretical possibility. And no matter how well you do them, I doubt if push-ups ever become "fun".

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According to the BMI I am of normal weight. I'm 60 years old, can still get the 80# canoe up off the ground, I can hike with a 40# pack all day, but I don't think I can do a pull-up anymore. :) Even in my hay-day, I could only muster 1 or 2. I have never had upper arm strength. I can walk/hike all day, I can do sit-ups with no problem, I can jump, do all the other things, but arm strength just was never my forte.



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Pretty much what Stosh just wrote except my excuse has more to do with resected ribs, broken bones, and internal pieces of titanium over the years. Oh well...it was fun.


Edited to add: Chest tubes are not fun. Feeding tubes are not fun.(This message has been edited by packsaddle)

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Although I've never really put a lot of stock into sayings I have heard one that states that following generations will continue to get smarter and weaker. As a kid I seemed to have heard that following generations were supposed to get bigger and stronger. Go figure.

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The problem mostly boils down to the emphasis that parents and leaders place on activity levels - not just fitness. If your pack meets inside a church hall to do arts & crafts, and your troop just goes car camping, your boys are going to get used to a very low level of physical activity.


As a Cub, my den met outside for the majority of the year. My parents were den leaders, and we had a two-acre property on which my dad had set up what amounted to a homemade playground for me, my brother and our friends. We had monkey bars, a swing set, a climbing rope, a swinging rope, tires for high-stepping, a plastic tunnel to crawl through, multiple wooden spools for jumping and climbing and a low balance beam. So the den had all that stuff to play on. We aced all those fitness achievements, even the kids who weren't the most athletic to begin with, because we practiced and had fun. And putting all that stuff together probably cost less than $500, because my dad scrounged and scavenged and welded and hammered it all together on his own. There wasn't any worry about lawsuits should some kid fall off the monkey bars and break his arm. It really was a different time.


When we got into Boy Scouts, that fun mostly stopped. We met inside the American Legion hall and later a church room. We went car camping, tied to the umbilical cord of the trailer and those damned propane tanks. (But that's another rant for another time.)


It wasn't until I got older, joined the OA and started working on camp staff that I discovered the real practical importance of good general fitness. Hauling tent platforms, 4x4s, outriggers, canvas, poles, picnic tables and loaded chuck boxes is challenging work if you're not somewhat aerobically conditioned and have at least a little muscle. We CITs and younger staffers also had some big, strapping men to look up to - college guys and teachers who weren't bodybuilders, but still could toss stuff around like it was styrofoam.


Lesson? To get and keep the younger kids fit, activity levels need to be (a) constant and (b) fun. The same for older kids, though it there are two added elements: © there needs to be a practical reason for it, and (d) your leaders need to model the same behavior.


If your troop only does the Tenderfoot tests without a regularly active program, and your leaders and parents have bellies that they can balance a soda can on while walking, your boys probably aren't going to be able to do pull-ups.(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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You know, it might be helpful if they moved the physical part from Tenderfoot to First Class and gave a boy more time to develop. A year is a world of difference to a growing boy. A lot of kids come into the program with an urgency to get that first rank badge. Many of them are stopped dead in their tracks by pull ups. They just came from Cubs. Let them get some physical activity thru campouts and summer camp under their belt and a little closer to puberty before requiring "feats of strength" for rank advancement. I understand the spirit of the requirement. It teaches them that they need to be physically fit and that regular exercise over a period of time can help them achieve their goal. A lot of 10.5 to 11 year old boys have the attention span and discipline of a gnat. Getting them to exercise at home every day for 30 days just doesn't happen as much as we would like it to. Most boys that age when asked what they did at the troop meeting will either give their parent a blank stare or say "stuff".

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perdidochas,"Therefore, this isn't a 2010 problem. The standards were created in 1985."


So maybe because we are a fatter and less active society now, than we was in 1985, we should change the standards to make the goal more achievable.




It won't hurt a young scout to do his best and then show improvement. If your best at a pull-up is zero then improvement is one more than zero. Not a bent elbow, or a 1/2 of one, it one complete pull-up.


If the boy chooses not to practice to achieve the goal of improvement then the boy chooses not to earn the Tenderfoot Badge. Its all about choosing to do what is required and earning the badge, or choosing not to do what is required and choosing not to earn the badge.

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Yah, hmmmm...


Why do we think that when a boy is faced with a challenge that he is going to quit?


Is that what we're teachin' somehow?


That the lads are so fragile that the crushing disappointment of having to spend a couple months working on fitness or swimming or whatnot is just so horrible that our poor, fragile 11-year-old boys simply can do naught but flee?


I don't know about you, but I just don't think most adolescent boys are that fragile. I suppose if all the adults around him from his parents to his SM tell him that he can't do something, and that expecting him to be somethin' other than the lowest quartile of fitness for his age is unreasonable that he might start believing it himself. But who would do that to a kid?


I think most Scoutmasters and most fellow scouts would be supportive and encouraging. And with support and encouragement I just don't see a lot of boys quitting just because something happens to be challenging. Ever see the lads spend hours and hours and hours with bruises and scrapes trying to figure out one of those crazy skateboard tricks?


Boys are like 'bumbles. They don't break when yeh drop 'em, they bounce.




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Boys are like Bumbles. I like that. Its soo true. IMO boys, whether they are 12 or 16 will always want to show the others they are tough enough. I dont think this has ever changed from 25 years ago to now. The largest of problems is that often to many time a bag of cheetoes and a tv are being used as a baby sitter.

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In my 27+ years as a scout leader I have yet to have a boy not be able to do at least one pull-up after the 30 days practice.


It was one of the things the patrol worked on together during the patrol time of the troop meeting. Coat rack poles make good pull-up stations for 11 year old scouts.

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I was a decently athletic kid, played sports, lettered in Basketball, was reasonably active. But like Stosh, I didn't have a whole lot of upper body strength. I hated pull-ups. I hated 'em, and I couldn't do very many. But I could do a couple. Three maybe on a good day.


As a kid, I wasn't opposed to exercise or running or even doing lower-body weight workouts. But I really disliked doing upper-body work because I was so bad at it. Then in college, my roommate convinced me to go to the gym. Mostly to look at girls, I think, but while I was there I did hit the weights. I still didn't like it - at first. But after a while, my arms started getting bigger, I started getting stronger, and I actually got to like it. Because I wasn't bad at it any more. I'm not exactly a gym rat these days, but I do have a home machine and use it. I suspect that will be good for me as the calender keeps turning over.


So for kids who can't do a pull-up, I think we need to encourage them to work at it. Find a way to make it less dispiriting for them - the bungie cord idea or assisted pullups, or some other way to build strength that shows visible progress. But don't just check em off the fisrt time they can bend their elbow. Unless there's a real physical problem, make them do a pullup. It's not beyond their ability.


Physical fitness really goes in spirals - either up or down. If you're out of shape, it's hard and painful and depressing to try and get into shape. It takes some willpower to get out of the downward spiral, it takes being able to see past the first dissapointing results and the embarrassment that you're not more fit, stronger, whatever. But once you start to get some gains, it can be extremely energizing. Help kids to get to that place, where they don't fear getting fit or staying fit and aren't depressed about not being fit. It's an amazing mental transformation when you realize you - your body - can break out of your current limitations with a little effort.


Losing out on that realization isn't worth a stinkin' rank badge, is it?

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