Strategies Table of Contents

PE Ninja Warrior: Designing an American Ninja Warrior Unit for Physical Education

Laura E. Bruno and Anne Farrell

Regular participation in physical education has the potential to develop physically literate individuals who have the knowledge, skills and confidence to engage in physical activity as an ongoing lifestyle choice (SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators, 2014). With appropriate instruction and ongoing deliberate practice, children can improve their motor skill performance and health-related fitness components, which are the building blocks of future participation in games, sports and fitness activities (Behringer, Vom Heede, Matthews, & Mester, 2011; Robinson et al., 2015). Therefore, it is necessary to focus on the development of select motor skills and fitness components early in life as a prerequisite for continued participation in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and protection from obesity later in life (Cattuzzo et al., 2016; Rodrigues, Stodden, & Lopes, 2016).

Previous research has indicated that developmentally appropriate learning experiences can specifically improve muscular strength and fundamental movement-skill proficiency in children (Morgan et al., 2013). Moreover, the potential health benefits of muscular fitness for school-age youth highlight the importance of muscle-strengthening physical activities for children and adolescents (Lloyd et al., 2014; Smith et al. 2014). Although the importance of integrating both health and skill-related fitness components is clear in the literature, there is an urgent need for their implementation in schoolbased programs. Regular physical activity during childhood and adolescence is associated with numerous physiological and psychosocial benefits, and has the potential to improve quality of life for boys and girls as they progress to adulthood and beyond (President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, 2017). Despite these potential benefits, numerous studies have shown that children and adolescents are far less active than their predecessors and are often physically inactive. Because of the current health state of children, the National Task Force on Community Preventive Services recommends modifying school PE to enhance physical activity behaviors and improve physical fitness (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012). These and similar recommendations have prompted the need for and development of new and creative approaches that provide an opportunity for children and adolescents to participate in regular, health-based physical activities (Bukowsky, Faigenbaum, & Myer, 2014; Faigenbaum et al. 2014; Farrell, Faigenbaum, & Radler, 2010). Therefore, physical educators need to look for inspiration in many different areas.

Like it or not, pop culture consumes a large part of many students’ lives. Therefore, it behooves all educators to acknowledge and embrace current popular television shows, video games and cultural phenomena to use those “hot topics” as platforms to connect critical course content with student interests. In recent years, a string of shows that focus on health, fitness and dance have provided a unique opportunity for PE. Shows like Dancing with the Stars (and spin-off s such as Skating with the Stars or Diving with the Stars), The Biggest Loser and Celebrity Fit Club have stirred the interest of viewers and encouraged many to pursue healthier lifestyles. Most recently, American Ninja Warrior (ANW) has made fi ness cool, daring and exciting.

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