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A basic right to exercise?


"From sport to sportivity" is a trend identified in a survey undertaken by the German future research institute 'zukunfts|institut' (source: "Sportivity, Die Zukunft des Sports - Zukunftsinstitut GmbH, May 2014; p.8). The institute claims in its report: "In future, the priority won't be to break records but to develop a new day-to-day lifestyle." (p.8) This is because: "Exercise is a basic need of all humans. This basic need differs with individual life situation." (p.8)

As we know from history, what may be considered to be a natural right is not always treated as such by the powers that be; people often need to demand or fight for this right before it is granted. This process begins with the realisation that a situation is not as it should be; a stance is then taken and efforts are made to win over others to the corresponding point of view. The recognition that something is amiss comes from our own inner perception of what is right and what is wrong. And in many cases, efforts are crowned by the right in question being subsequently enshrined in law.

When it comes to legally stipulated dictates and prohibitions, a similar sort of system operates. In the past, people were well aware that using a seat belt in a car would reduce the risk of physical injury when accidents occur and suspected that excessive smoking was associated with the development of long term disorders. But the requirement to wear a seat belt and bans on smoking in certain situations would never have become reality if it had not been for the fact that experience shows that human beings, despite knowing better, will simply repress thoughts of potential dangers or ignore these out of carelessness. This means that concern plays a major and significant role here.


Concern shows that more exercise is needed

Take the steps or use the lift? Bicycle or train? Once upon a time, society did not place any particular value on exercise; today the situation is quite different. We know that those who fail to take enough routine exercise are jeopardizing their own health. As human beings are biological life forms, exercise is for them a necessity. However, people need to rediscover the pleasure that exercise can provide.

The maintenance of mental and physical capacity through exercise is not just important in the elderly. It has been demonstrated that indulgence in sporting activities can have a preventive effect with regard to cardiovascular disorders. Exercise stimulates and enlivens the body. Another beneficial side effect is that exercise in the fresh air will very soon dispel any bad mood.

Regular training to improve stamina, performance and the sense of balance helps individuals cope with everyday life, master challenges and deal with increased stress.

The organised sporting activities provided by clubs and associations are perfect for fulfilling the associated societal requirements. But participation in such organised structures that in many cases can be inextricably linked with a specific ethos is not everyone's cup of tea. People may still wish to take exercise although they have no wish to become part of a group. It is all the more important for sports clubs to create programmes that are independent of these structures and thus available to individuals who want to remain autonomous. Both sides can profit enormously from this form of mutual approach.

It is essential that people recognise in themselves the need for exercise and become aware that it is good for them. They must be able to identify what is available to them and utilise these options; this can be used as the basis for further developments and the starting point of endeavours to ensure that the 'right to exercise' is formally recognised. It has always been the purpose of the playfit range of exercise equipment to encourage everyone to get active - even couch potatoes, those of an age (a flexible concept this) where they can no longer undertake so much and those with physical or mental disabilities.

This does not mean that this equipment fails to meet the needs of the more demanding fitness fanatic. The playfit Coaching Programme developed recently by playfit in collaboration with a Hamburg-based gymnastics and leisure association (VTF) - the city's largest mass sport, recreation and professional sport organisation - makes detailed provisions for training options. These extend from light exercises to all-embracing and demanding forms of training the effectiveness of which have been verified by sports scientists. The emphasis is placed very much on training and exercise.

Another important aspect is that the venues themselves must be attractively designed and be appropriate to their surroundings.


Human rights trail in Nuremberg

Nuremberg's 'Berufsförderungswerk' organisation provides vocational training, accommodation and jobs to more than 600 people. Their living and working environment is supplemented by a park for use in their leisure time. In the park are 20 exhibits that represent various human rights and their relevance to society.

Visitors can use the playfit equipment installed here to actively exploit their ‘right to exercise’.The equipment is specifically designed to be appropriate for individual capacities as it provides for exercise at different levels and in different forms.

Sports teachers, patients and staff involved in rehabilitation measures are all equally delighted by the options provided on their own doorstep - even the hotel in the vicinity is benefiting. Its operators are more than happy to be able to employ the playfit equipment in association with their annual 'health day' events. School classes and those attending conferences in Nuremberg are given guided tours along the human rights trail and their attention is thus drawn to the importance of individual exercise as a basic human right as embodied in Article 4 of the Olympic Charter: "The practice of sport is a human right". Everyone comes together at the playfit outdoor fitness installations where they can also interact with each other. That people can relate to each other in this way and come to appreciate this are additional advantages of communal facilities of this kind that also promote integration.

When it comes to design concepts, the possibilities are almost unlimited. It is as a bridge-builder and link between the various different realms of exercise that the company playfit sees itself - as a facilitator that makes it possible for beginners to access the world of training and thus recognise and improve their existing abilities. Exercise as an activity that provides pleasure must be integrated in a permanent form in our day-to-day routine as something to be looked forward to. Only if the options are there in visible and tangible form will they become integral components of our everyday life. 

Many people enjoy riding a bicycle because they can do this sitting down - maybe not quite the right attitude, but it is at least a beginning. Others have a long way to go until they accept that exercise and the delight it provides need to be recognised as fundamental rights. In whatever way each individual understands the concept or defines and describes this right, there is still much to do as the examples of the seat belt and tobacco consumption illustrate - it is practical experience that often first leads to the awakening of concern. Common sense and conviction will be the foundations on which people will assume responsibility for maintaining their own health. They will then enjoy a better, happier lifestyle that is in consonance with their fundamental need as beings that have always needed to be active and take exercise.

Exercise and sport must cease to be perceived as activities to be undertaken out of a sense of obligation and be recognised as factors that determine our quality of life. Most people have long been aware that the purpose of sport and exercise is to promote their own well-being and health: the introduction of the new concept of 'sportivity' will undoubtedly have a positive influence on corresponding developments.


Image: playfit GmbH

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