Growing up in high school, I was never the fat kid.
I was a decent athlete and enjoyed playing a lot of different sports. I didn't enjoy working out until I hit college however, because I was never taught that I could actually improve myself without competing against anybody.
This stigma with fitness that I see in some people is that it sucks.
I hypothesize that a large amount of that stigma, developed from their memories of mandatory school fitness. Here's why.
1. It's always team sports.
For some reason, primary schools have this fetish for team sports.
"It teaches teamwork!" proponents of them say. And to that, I say no.
First of all, being picked last is the worst feeling you could have. What a way to hurt a kid's self esteem when it's most vulnerable.
Secondly, the nature of team sports is so competitive. Some people grow up with a love for team sports, while others have more of a passion for individual exercise. You can't just force everybody into the same activity.
I'm all for developing a sense of competition within students, but make it within themselves. You don't develop a student's competitive spirit by making him/her compete in something they don't want to compete in.
You boost kids' self esteem by identifying what their strengths are, and getting them to compete on those interests.
2. Some kids just can't keep up.
Schools are keen to ensure 100% participation -- so whether or not a kid is sick (or pretends to be), not fit enough, or they just don't like the people they're playing with -- they are still forced to do something.
The purpose of a gym teacher is to get students to do something in their 60-minute class session. They don't care whether or not they do anything valuable that will change their whole outlook on life.
Just that they do something.
This completely disregards the fact that humans are wired to learn different things at different times. Why can't someone choose when they want to pursue fitness?
Why is it always when the school system requires you to?
If everyone says that every child is unique, then maybe we should start treating them in that way.
3. It encourages a disdain for fitness later on in life.
These feelings towards exercise subsist way past primary school.
They grow up thinking they hate fitness, when really they just hated the dog-eat-dog world of gym class. They will continue to believe that fitness is all about having a better body than someone else, or being more athletic than another.
In a world of different fitness styles, we keep trying to push everyone through the same small hole of what we think good fitness is.
I hated cardio. But that's all they really considered "fitness" in school.
As a powerlifter of 3 years, most people wouldn't consider me in poor shape. But the school system would try to convince me otherwise.