A Great Challenge: Daily Physical Activity

Por: Celina K. Tamashiro.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Brazil is well known by its beautiful beaches and good soccer. Though, in a country five times soccer world champion where that is the most practiced sport and the players are great idols, the physical activity as a way to reach better quality of life sometimes can be left aside.

Researches held in 15 biggest Brazilian cities indicate that 4 among 10 Brazilians suffer from overweight. Hence, this is not an exclusive Brazilian challenge. In France, overweight reaches 16% of the children and 41,3% of the adults, according to Dr Patrick Serog (specialist in obesity) in recent article published by the newspaper "La Vie en Forme" from the French Federation of Sports for All - EPMM.

Facing this scenery it is important to incentive the practice of conscious and pleasant physical activity in a way that it becomes a daily routine with effective results. This is one of the values of SESC - the Social Service of Commerce, a private institution that maintains operational units in several Brazilian states, with great majority of them located within São Paulo state.

One of SESC main institutional objectives is to contribute for the improvement, enhancement, well being and increase of quality of life of its clientele as well as the whole community through actions such as "SESC Summer", "Walking" and "Challenge Day", among others.

In Brazil, the Summer season starts at the very beginning of the year. This fact creates an atmosphere of renovation of values and plans that usually aim the balance between physical and mental health. This is the favorable moment to incentive the practice of physical activity once the persons are already stimulated to go out and look for open air spaces. Public parks and beaches are the summer main destinations.

Persons feel motivated to reconsider old routines. The concern with fitness is number one issue of that period. Academies are crowded and the proposal to include physical activity in the daily agenda is intense. This is the right time to develop the habit of practicing.

Getting the chance of this special moment, SESC has been promoting "SESC Summer" since 1996 during the months of January and February. Many activities based on a selected theme are developed in all SESC units, especially those located within São Paulo State. The themes of the summer campaign change every year. Besides, a special publication is issued annually based on researches and statements. Then, the theme is maintained along the year and with slight variations leads other events and reinforces the institutional role of fomenting culture and promoting informal education, using the physical activity as a tool to spread concepts related to well being, quality of life and citizenship.

"Walking" is another activity we consider simple to accomplish due to the easy access to everyone. It doesn’t require specialized techniques, it can be practiced in many diverse spaces and can become part of one’s daily life. According to the research published by SESC in 2003, walking is the most practiced activity in São Paulo, reaching 28% of the population. It is an activity to be remarked that evokes from simple dynamics of walking to work up to more elaborated practice in the nearest park.

At SESC, walking also has the characteristic of socialization. The activity is practiced in some units with organized groups and special weekend sessions around the streets of São Paulo or nearby parks. Through this action SESC promotes the citizenship and the increases the awareness about our environment. Some special walking events gathered over 6.000 participants.

We also highlight the Street Running, an activity that gains more and more adepts all over Brazil. Street running has presenting a great annual growth. In 1993 there were 1.010 participants. Ten years later, in 2003, 55.602 persons took part in street running contests. This activity still keeps a democratic feature once it does not exclude participants either by age or social level. Instead it unites interests and motivations. In São Paulo the great event "Corrida de São Silvestre" became traditional and takes place on December 31st, gathering over 15.000 participants.

Motivating people for practicing physical activity during Summer and motivating them to take part of street running is easy once the summer invites to those activities. On the other hand, to awake the interest for physical activity during autumn, for example, is a great challenge. Other actions are developed such as "Challenge Day". Created in 1983 by ParticipACTION, a Canadian sportive institution and promoted worldwide by TAFISA (Trim and Fitness Sport for All Association) the challenge always takes place on the last Wednesday of May and leads people to break their routine and practice at least 15 minutes of physical

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