As more is learned about the importance of exercise one wonders why there isn't a big push for meaningful physical education in the schools as a long term health measure.
The value of mental-training games may be speculative, as Dan Hurley writes in his article on the quest to make ourselves smarter, but there is another, easy-to-achieve, scientifically proven way to make yourself smarter. Go for a walk or a swim. For more than a decade, neuroscientists and physiologists have been gathering evidence of the beneficial relationship between exercise and brainpower. But the newest findings make it clear that this isn’t just a relationship; it is the relationship. Using sophisticated technologies to examine the workings of individual neurons — and the makeup of brain matter itself — scientists in just the past few months have discovered that exercise appears to build a brain that resists physical shrinkage and enhance cognitive flexibility. Exercise, the latest neuroscience suggests, does more to bolster thinking than thinking does
Rather than focusing on a filter for athletics, focus on giving kids a life long enthusiasm for some kind of physical activity - perhaps even being entry level personal trainers with the goal of creating a student specific set of activities by the time they graduate. It may be one of the most cost effective ways to lower long term health costs and improve the quality of life for millions.
Of course these values can be taught in the home, but as a society we seem to be moving in the other direction with the athletically adroit kids receiving most of the attention.
Work suggests that we evolved with energy expenditures of 1.5 to 1.8 times our Basal Metabolic Rate. Getting an exact BMR is tricky, but you can get a good enough approximation with tools like this one. The average American is sufficiently sedentary that he only expends about 1.1 to 1.2 times his BMR. My requirement, by this calculation, suggests my BMR is about 1560 Calories a day. At 1.2 times BMR I would require about 1890 Calories a day and the excess would be stored as fat. At 1.8 times BMR I would require about 2800 Calories a day to keep my weight. That is much more physical exercise than most of us can perform. But our body may have many systems that have evolved to require those higher levels. Any kind of exercise is probably good, but most of us would have a long way to go before we are overdoing it if this is true and there is mounting evidence in that direction.
Active transportation - walking and biking when you are only traveling a short distance - can make a dent in your "daily physical exercise requirements" and often it doesn't require that much extra time. Assuming you are careful, you should not be the worse for wear ....