Parkour as Health Promotion in Schools: A Qualitative Study Focusing on Aspects of Participation

By Grabowski, D.; Thomsen, S. D. | International Journal of Education, October 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Parkour as Health Promotion in Schools: A Qualitative Study Focusing on Aspects of Participation


Grabowski, D., Thomsen, S. D., International Journal of Education


Abstract

In this paper we highlight the potential role of parkour in school-based health promotion for children and adolescents. The popularity of parkour has increased significantly in recent years and has attracted a lot of new participants. Health promotion initiatives in schools face challenges, when it comes to generating a high level of participation among children and adolescents. Parkour has only sporadically been introduced to the school setting, and it is therefore relevant to study whether parkour contains the elements that can generate a high level of participation within health promotion activities in school. The paper reports on an empirical study of how parkour generates different kinds of participation. The paper provides health practitioners with important knowledge about why and how it is important to use parkour in school health promotion in order to provide participatory conditions that create a significant health promoting effect for all adolescents - not just for those who are already healthy.

Keywords: parkour, health, health education, participation, children, adolescents

1. Introduction

The role of participation in health promotion and health education for children and adolescents is an important and much studied subject. Most research agrees on the fact that the success of health education and health promotion initiatives is closely linked to the achieved level of participation (Jensen, 1997; Jensen & Simovska, 2005). However, health promotion initiatives in schools still face challenges when it comes to generating a high level of participation among children and adolescents (e.g. Sinclair, 2004; Simovska, 2007).

Parkour is an activity that might have potential as a participatory health promotion activity in school. The popularity of parkour has increased enormously in recent years and has attracted a lot of new participants among young people (e.g. Angel, 2011; Gilchrist & Wheaton, 2011; Clegg & Butryn, 2012). Parkour has only sporadically been introduced to the school setting (Gilchrist & Wheaton, 2011), and it is therefore highly relevant to study whether parkour contains the elements that can generate a high level of participation within health promotion activities.

It is often found difficult to present health education, physical education and health-information in ways that seem relevant, authentic and meaningful to children and adolescents (Peters et ah, 2009; Petraglia, 2009; Wistoft, 2010; Grabowski & Rasmussen, 2014). Children and adolescents request activities where they can participate actively and where they can relate the content of the activities and the presented information to their own lives. The activities and information has to seem relevant and meaningful to them (Wistoft, 2010).

Parkour is an emerging lifestyle sport and physical discipline where the aim is to move as smoothly, quickly and effectively from one location to another. This is done by overcoming obstacles, both physical and emotional, and on the way using only the body - this may involve climbing, vaulting, jumping and balancing (e.g. Ameel & Tani, 2012; Angel, 2011; Gilchrist & Wheaton, 2011; Saville, 2008; Wheaton, 2004). It is also an activity that involves learning how to overcome one's fears and limitations by mastering both the body and the mind (Angel, 2011). Parkour has its own unique set of values that in many ways differ from both traditional and other lifestyle sports (Gilchrist & Wheaton, 2011). Parkour is a non-competitive activity. Practitioners of parkour, or traceurs as they call themselves, do not compete against each other; instead parkour is about challenging yourself and your level of skill both physically and mentally (Gilchrist & Wheaton, 2011; Angel, 2011). It is effort and attitude that are rewarded instead of ability. The parkour-community is characterised as very non-hi erar chi cal, inclusive and responsible. The inclusive aspect of parkour is visible in the way beginners and outsiders are supported and embraced in the parkour-community (Gilchrist & Wheaton, 2011; Clegg & Butryn, 2012). …

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