I am deeply engaged in a field of research and practice called physical literacy. Established by the formative works of Margaret Whitehead (1993, 2001, 2010), physical literacy is defined as the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for maintaining purposeful physical pursuits/activities throughout the lifecourse. Physical literacy is not about winning or competing with others. If we take physical literacy seriously, physical activity should be seen as an end in itself rather than a means to other ends. What does this mean, and how is it different? First, physical literacy his is grounded on the philosophical support from existentialists and phenomenologists who give unequivocal support for the centrality of our embodied dimension in life as we know it.
Physical literacy is not a state that is reached and then persists throughout life. It is best seen as a journey, a journey unique to each individual. Each journey is likely to encounter twists, turns and maybe setbacks along the way. Journeys may stall on account of a range of personal circumstances, some maybe beyond the individual’s control. However with determination and the help of others, individuals’ journeys can restart and indeed flourish.
In adulthood, if physical literacy has been realized, the individual readily engages in physical activity as a regular aspect of her lifestyle, appreciating the intrinsic value of physical activity, as well as its contribution to health and well-being. Participation is valued for the pleasure and fulfillment it brings, as well as for the challenge and personal development that it offers. There is ample opportunity for this literacy to be further enriched through taking opportunities to increase physical competence. Significant others and environments are needed to support this continued involvement: partners and spouses play an important part at this stage not least in facilitating participation, but also in encouraging the individual to take up different movement forms.