In a world free of sedentary-related diseases like obesity or type-2 diabetes, I believe that humans would still value the concepts of play, games, and sport. Long before we even knew about the health benefits of sport, ancient civilizations like this example in Mesopotamia were integrating play and games in their societies. As humans we have been attracted to concepts of movement and competition since our earliest days, of which are most clearly demonstrated in the ancient example of the Greek Olympics. Because of this movement culture we have created over the thousands of years as a species, I do not think that humans would stop producing games and play if all diseases involving physical activity disappeared.
What about the value of games for our youth? I like how Kretchmar says that, “It is in the formative years that we develop good dietary and movement habits, but young children do not have the intellectual and experiential resources to appreciate the extrinsic-movement argument” (Kretchmar 142). This stands out to me because it shows that children don’t care about health benefits when they play sport, they engage in it because it is fun to them and lets them interact with other friends/peers. In this article, nearly 9 out of 10 child athletes said that they play sports because, “…it’s fun. I play sports because I enjoy them” (Sullivan 2017). We build playgrounds for youth using sport, and the sense of play they get from games is not influenced in any form by health risks or benefits.
Using my own experiences, as a child I never thought about my health when participating in a sport. When I was in my sophomore year of high school I realized that exercise can benefit my health in a number of ways, so I began to take training a lot more seriously. However, even after years of training I don’t just do it for health anymore. I agree with Anderson when he says, “… honoring science to the exclusion of the humanities of movement can have disastrous consequences; specifically, it bodes an inattentiveness to the creative and disciplinary features of movement experiences that yield personal and social meanings” (“The Humanity of Movement”, P. 89). Training has become a deep play for me – something I enjoy doing almost everyday and getting a pump in the gym. It has become part of who I am and doesn’t feel like a grind, rather something fun I look forward to. I connect with this video of Arnold Schwarzenegger explaining his love for weight training. The way he describes the “pump” truly shows the level of love he had for engaging in sport. Examples of this kind of elite athlete demonstrate that people do not always want health benefits from sport and games, it is just an added side benefit that comes with a passion for movement.
Aside from the health aspect of sport and games, humans will continue to value sport because it boosts the economy and creates ways for generating revenue. According to a recent A.T. Kearney study of sports, the industry was worth between $480-$620 billion in 2011. This number has probably gone up over the past 6 years as the sports market creates more jobs, advertisements, clothing, and other goods. Sports bring competition not only for those participating in them, but to also to companies trying to out-perform one another and come out with the latest product. Because of this big economic impact that sport has, we would still continue to participate even in the absence of disease. Sports provide a means for living in many developing countries, and a lot of youth in these poor countries turn to sport as an avenue to get out of a life filled with poverty.
For all of these reasons, I believe that humans would still be connected with play, games, and sport even if sedentary-related diseases become obsolete. Sport has almost become coded into our genetics. Our early hunter-gatherer ancestors depended on movement for survival in a primitive world. It is no surprise that as humans started to civilize we would turn to sports and games to fill this void of movement. Would we tell our children to stop playing if there were no diseases? Would a sports company stop trying to earn more money through their products if disease didn’t exist? With the obvious “no” to these questions one can see that the value of games and play goes far beyond the realm of health. These aspects of our lives create meaning through social, personal, and sometimes economical experiences. Sport is not just a path to health, it is a phenomena that will most likely continue until the end of human civilization.