Publication Details

This article was originally published as Burrows, L, Wright, J and Jungersen-Smith, J, "Measure your belly": New Zealand children's constructions of health and fitness, Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 22(1), 2002, 39-48. Original journal available here.


The expansion of health as a concept, repeated expressions of nation-wide concerns about young people’s health and the accompanying information explosion about health and fitness have worked together to support versions of physical education that explicitly address health issues. The conflation of health with physical education is not however unproblematic. In this paper we explore some of the consequences of the relationship between health, fitness and physical activity through an examination of the students’ responses to questions relating to health and fitness in the New Zealand National Education Monitoring Project. We demonstrate that the children responding to the NEMP tasks were very familiar with the relationship between physical activity, fitness and health. While on one hand this seems to point to the efficacy of physical and health education programs, we also suggest that the ways that these children seem to have accepted this relationship unproblematically and with a great deal of certainty does not necessarily contribute to their health and well-being but rather suggests an acceptance of discourses which are associated with guilt, the self-monitoring of the body and which seem to deny the pleasure which can be associated with physical activity.

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