Whitman enjoyed exercise, life

Dec. 19, 2012 @ 01:50 PM

“Arrogant, masculine, naïve, rowdyish,
Laugher, weeper, worker, idler, citizen, countryman,
Saunterer of woods, stander upon hills, summer swimmer in rivers or by the sea,
Of pure American breed, of reckless health, his body perfect, free
From taint from top to toe, free forever from headache and
Dyspepsia, clean-breathed,
Ample-limbed, a good feeder, weight a hundred and eighty pounds,
Full-blooded, six feet high, forty inches round the breast and back.”

The above is not a description of me. I do enjoy sauntering through woods and my wife would say I’m a good feeder (a healthy appetite), but my body is far from perfect, for sure. These words are from my old friend Walt Whitman, the great poet, and he was describing himself. Whitman loved to exercise, and I call old Walt my friend because I read everything about the man I can get my hands on. He wrote a lot about the body and using good health to enjoy life. I have only read the same book more than once a few times in my life, but my tattered and frayed at the edges copy of “Walt Whitman: A Life,” written by Justin Kaplan, is one of those. Read Walt Whitman and you can’t help but gain more gusto for life.
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Let me share the results of a recent study that most people already know: Physical education should be a part of the daily curriculum in our schools. After all, the results prove what common sense tells us. In the Journal of American Public Health, it was shown that girls in kindergarten through fifth grade who received the highest levels of physical education, 70 to 300 minutes a week, scored consistently higher on reading and math tests than those who spent less than 35 minutes a week. Many reasons are cited for this, such as an increased sense of worth, increased blood flow to the brain, and less classroom disruption. The sad, very sad, fact is that only 13 percent of students nationwide in kindergarten through fifth grade get daily participation in physical education.
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I took Debbie Yow, N.C. State’s athletic director, to task a few weeks ago for firing Tom O’Brien, the Wolfpack football coach. While a couple of readers wrote to agree with me, including a well known area resident and N.C. State graduate, another reader wrote to me wondering why. Let me give some reasons:
--N.C. State is going to its third straight bowl game this year, and the three-year stretch from the 2010 season to 2012, if they win their bowl game, will be the second most successful three-year run in N.C. State history in terms of wins, with 25. The Pack won the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl over West Virginia and the 2011 Belk Bowl over Louisville. Under Coach O’Brien, the Pack beat its No. 1 rival, UNC, five out of six times! They beat a Top 10 team this season in Florida State.
--Coach O’Brien’s teams at Boston College showed that once an O’Brien program got established, many years of success followed. Just take a look at his record at Boston College, where his teams went to bowls every year, and won them.
--Now let’s look at N.C. State football’s academic achievement under Coach O’Brien, which will show you one of the highest grade point averages in the program’s history. There is no record of taking bogus classes here, where you didn’t have to show up in an actual classroom to get credit. How many times did you hear of off-field troubles from Pack footballers? I don’t know about you, but I like the word “student-athletes,” not the athlete-students that seem to be emphasized at many universities these days.
Lewis Bowling teaches at N.C. Central University and Duke University. He is the author of several books on fitness and sports. His website is www.lewisbowling.com. He can be reached at 919-530-6224 and at Lewis_Bowling@yahoo.com.