Pull Your Own Weight: How mastering a pullup can prevent childhood obesity

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A column by Rick Osbourne

When it comes to education there are two important factors including mastery of the subject, and the time allowed for that mastery to occur. In the conventional school system TIME is a constant while MASTERY is a variable.

So for example, in the conventional high school each day is broken down into eight or nine periods of similar length and these remain constant throughout the school year. During each of those periods, students address a specific subject (i.e. math, science, English). If they retain 71 to 80% of the subject they’re labeled C students. If they retain 81 to 90% they’re labeled B students. And if they retain 91 to 100% they’re labeled A students. In other words, time is constant while the degree of mastery varies among students, which in turn is supposedly reflected in their grades.

Montessori Flips Convention Upside Down

In contrast this conventional scenario is flipped upside down in a Montessori School. That is to say MASTERY is constant while TIME is variable. In other words, it may take some students a week to master a particular subject while others require 2 or 3 weeks in order to master the same material.

But the Montessori teacher is focused on mastery instead of on time or grades. The goal is for each student to master the material regardless of how much time it takes. Under these conditions grades are rendered meaningless.

Learning to Physically Pull Your Own Weight

Now what does all this have to do with childhood obesity prevention, Operation Pull Your Own Weight, and learning to do pull ups? The answer is that like Maria Montessori, the PYOW teacher is focused on helping students master the art of doing pull ups, because kids who can do even one pull up are ALMOST NEVER OBESE!

And it’s not because pull ups burn many calories. They don’t. But as one’s percentage of body fat increases it gradually undermines participants who are attempting to do pull ups. Bottom line is, those whose percentage of body fat is 30% or more (i.e. those who are actually obese) are simply TOO HEAVY to physically pull their own weight…even once. (By the way, this same claim can be made for other body weight exercises that require a participant to handle 100% of their body weight including for example parallel bar dips, hand stand push-ups, and rope climbing)

Most kids (85%) are not obese. Many will learn to do pull ups in a month or six weeks. Others will require several months, or even an entire school year. But the time factor is totally irrelevant. The goal is to cross the finish line (master the subject) and to maintain the ability for life (which requires 30 seconds a week and decent eating and exercise habits), because human beings who can physically pull their own weight at least once (more is always better) ARE ALMOST NEVER OBESE.

Mastering and Maintaining the Ability

For the record, if you can walk over to the closest tree limb and do at least one conventional pull up odds are absolutely spectacular that you’ll avoid obesity and all the problems that follow in its wake for a lifetime. I ask you, how simple is that?

The moral of this story is that OPYOW teachers agree with Montessori’s emphasis on mastery over time. Kids are individuals and they learn things in various ways and in various time frames. But whether we’re talking about math, rocket science, language arts, music, brain surgery, or flying airplanes, the key to success is mastery, while the time factor should remain extremely flexible. In other words, conventional school systems, and anyone who’s interested in childhood obesity prevention could learn a lot from the example set by Maria Montessori and her followers.

Rick Osbourne is former physical educator and a pioneer in the field of functional childhood obesity prevention. He currently serves as President of the Pull Your Own Weight Foundation which is an Illinois based, 501c3, not for profit organization whose focus is functional childhood obesity prevention. He’s written and published three books in this field, the latest of which is entitled Beating Childhood Obesity Now: A Simple Solution for Parents and Educators. He’s the Examiner’s national childhood obesity prevention correspondent. He writes an online column for The Edvocate. And you can connect with Rick via Twitter, Linkedin, or Facebook.

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