Saying it's impossible to be mad when you skip, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for leaders around the world to take up skipping, the "hippity-hoppity" gait that, for most adults, has become a thing of the past.
"If you remember the last time you skipped, you will no doubt remember feeling frisky and carefree," Kim said in a statement released today. The U.N. last week passed a referendum declaring the week of Dec. 18-25 World Skipping Week, which the international organization hopes will inspire people everywhere to skip rather than fight.
"The fact is, you just can't be mad or hostile when you're skipping," says Aron Andresen of Stavanger, Norway, president of the International Skipping Society, based in Oslo.
Andresen pointed to a number of studies showing the physical as well as mental health effects of skipping, which practitioners say creates a feeling of well-being likened to an extreme form of runner's high.
"With skipping, you get what's often called an 'endorphin rush' because of increased activity in the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus," says Pierre Curien of Centre national de la recherche scientifique, France's state-owned scientific research center in Paris.
Mr. Kim has been advocating for official recognition of skipping since becoming head of the U.N. in 2007. "There was a lot of suspicion at first over what this was all about," Kim said at his press conference announcing World Skipping Week. "The Americans were concerned that, given their country's high rate of obesity, it was an effort to cause wide-scale cardiovascular stress among their people, especially in Kentucky, but we were able to show that over the long run regular skipping would greatly benefit the cardiovascular health of everyone. The Russians were concerned that their people would face a sharp increase in accidents, because at any given time many Russians are well into their fourth, fifth, or even sixth glass of vodka. And the Chinese were concerned that it would distract people from working long, hard hours at little pay to help their capitalist owners become millionaires to buy German cars, U.S. real estate, and marry Japanese women. The British were just concerned they would look silly. But we were able to put these and other concerns to rest, because skipping is a benefit that sells itself."
Mr. Kim said that he himself tries to skip every day, and that he really feels it when he can't. "I don't like skipping skipping," he said. "Ha ha."
The U.N. initiative comes at a time when there is growing interest in the activity. Skipping clubs are springing up in many cities, including London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, and Seoul. Less encouraging is a rise in what's known as extreme skipping, which is a strenuous physical activity in which the skipper dons a helmet and pads and skips for long distances.
"Extreme skipping is an unfortunate side effect of the increased interest in skipping," says Andresen. "Any time you have a good thing, you have people who take it to extremes, and we certainly have that here."
But even with extreme skipping, because of the euphoric effect it has on participants, the sport has none of the negative effects of other types of extreme sports. "Yes, extreme skippers are edgy, but they're friendly edgy," said Andresen. "And that's the whole point of World Skipping Week. You can't be mean when you're skipping, which is why we applaud the U.N. for promoting skipping as an international activity. We strongly believe that if everybody skipped for at least 10 minutes a day, the world would see a noticeable drop in war, murder, and other violent activity, including road rage."
"It starts with us, the leaders," said Kim. "We must go skipping. As people see their leaders skipping, they too will start skipping. Yes, it will make it harder for some people to get dates, but that's a small sacrifice to pay for a more peaceful world."