Welcome to the Be Active Your Way blog, the official blog of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAG). Follow the Be Active Your Way blog to learn what organizations across the nation are doing to help Americans be more physically active. Learn more about this blog.

Building Consumer Campaigns: National School Backpack Awareness Day & Other Events

Written by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)

APTA’s vision statement is “Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.” It is both ours and our members’ goal to help consumers make wise choices with their health care and assist people of all ages improve and maintain mobility and remain active and fit throughout life. We take that mission seriously and through a variety of multifaceted, consumer-oriented campaigns, on a number of subjects, we get the word out.

Pediatric back pain, for example, is just one issue on which we’ve focused. As children head back to school and ease back into the daily routine of learning, stuffing their bags each day with heaps of heavy books, it is important to remember the impact the weight of all those books can have on young child’s back. The added pounds can lead to serious issues and back pain. Last week was National School Backpack Awareness Day, and each fall APTA launches a campaign, using a mix of social and traditional media to get the word out about backpack safety.

Launching Consumer Campaigns at APTA

When we launch any consumer event we take a multifaceted approach using both social and traditional media. We incorporate all of our social media properties (Facebook, YouTube, BlogTalkRadio, Twitter, and Pinterest) to extend our reach as far as possible. Whilst our web team is busy coordinating that effort our media relations folks are busy composing talking points, press releases, and other content, and then personally reaching out to targeted media.

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Watches Are Good, Synchronized Watches Are Better

Written by Tom Richards, Senior Legislative Counsel, IHRSA

As a young kid playing various “war games” in and around the wooded neighborhoods of upstate New York, my friends and I always thought it was essential to synchronize our plastic digital watches, like they did in the movies. Of course, we never performed any maneuvers that would require precise timing, but the act of synchronizing our watches seemed to strengthen the bond among friends and make us more accountable to one another. It was a signal that we were in it together.   

I thought of my old friends as I watched the roll out of Apple’s latest world changing technology.

The Apple Watch electrified the mobile health movement on Tuesday with its integration of several health and fitness applications. With its user-friendly interface and elegant design, the Apple Watch combines the utility of health monitoring devices with humanity’s love affair with touch screens. It’s a very exciting tool that surely represents just the beginning of a new era of wearable technology. Unfortunately, despite its relentless coolness, it can’t lift people off the couch, take them for a walk, or drive them to a gym.

As we’ve discussed previously in this space, there is no one solution that will get the world moving.

But we know there is at least one powerful motivator for physical activity that seems to positively impact a great number of people: the buddy system. 

We may be a more sedentary species than we once were, but we are as social as ever.

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Active Kids Do Better: A Win-Win for All

Written by Shellie Pfohl, Executive Director, President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition

As the buzzer sounds on another sizzling summer, kids across America are getting back in the game and gearing up for another school year. Now, instead of days filled with swimming, biking, climbing trees and playing, most kids will spend six to seven hours each day within school walls. 

The primary focus of schools is to help students learn and develop foundational skills and knowledge to succeed in life. But with the increasing demands and pressures of improving standardized test scores and grade point averages are we defeating these goals by eliminating or significantly restricting the time students are physically active throughout the school day?

When it comes to the school environment, the latest research shows that increased physical activity and improved academic outcomes don’t have to be an either-or-proposition. In fact, physical activity and academic success go hand and hand – a true win-win for all.

Physical activity not only helps kids stay healthy, it can also lead to higher test scores, improved attendance, better behavior in class and lower rates of childhood obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), school-aged youth should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day to reap these benefits.

That’s why the President’s Council is proud to serve as the federal lead for Let’s Move! Active Schools – a comprehensive school-based physical activity program that will help make physical activity the new norm for schools. Let’s Move! Active Schools encourages schools to develop a culture in which physical activity and physical education are foundational to academic success.

Powered by a national collaboration of leading health and education organizations, Let’s Move! Active Schools streamlines the selection of programs, resources, professional development and funding opportunities, and delivers a customized action plan – making it simple for teachers and administrators to implement.

Across the nation, we are starting to see positive changes take hold. Bower Hill Elementary School in Venetia, Pennsylvania is a powerful example. Recently, the school started a walking program that quickly grew into a marathon challenge, where teachers and their students attempted to walk a marathon over the course of the year, leading up to participation in the final mile at the Pittsburgh Kids Marathon.

To learn how you, too, can be a “game-changer” for your school, sign up to be a champion for Active Schools at www.letsmoveschools.org.  For more information about the learning connection between regular physical activity and academic performance, visit http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/health_and_academics/.

Help Children and Teens Get an Active Start to the School Year

Written by the NIH Weight-Control Information Network

For many, September marks the start of a new school year. It is also National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. This observance is especially important in the United States, where about one-third of children and teens are overweight or obese. With extra weight in young people linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, many people may want to help youth improve their health throughout the year.

The Weight-control Information Network (WIN) offers these ideas for helping an overweight child:

  • Set a good example. Show your child that you are physically active and enjoy what you do.
  • Be active together as a family. Assign active chores, such as making beds, sweeping, or vacuuming. Plan active outings, like a walk through a local park.
  • Encourage your child to join a sports team or class, such as basketball, dance, or soccer, at school or at your local community or recreation center.
  • If your child feels uncomfortable playing sports, help him or her find physical activities that are fun and not competitive, such as playing tag, jumping rope, or riding a bike.

For teens, WIN offers these tips:

  • Be physically active for 60 minutes a day. It’s fine if you can’t do it all at once! You can be active for as little as 10 minutes at a time, spread throughout the day.
  • Walk or bike to school if you live nearby and can safely do so.
  • Between classes, stand up and walk around, even if your next subject is in the same room.
  • Choose activities you like. Try running, playing flag football, or having a dance party with friends.

Find more ideas for helping kids in WIN’s Helping Your Overweight Child. Also available in Spanish, this brochure offers tips for parents and other caregivers to support an overweight child while also helping her or him to be healthy. Along with ideas to help your child be more active, it features lists of healthy snacks and tips to help your child consume healthy foods and beverages each day.

For the teen in your life, check out WIN’s Take Charge of Your Health: A Guide for Teenagers, also available in Spanish. This booklet gives teens basic facts about regular physical activity and healthy food and beverage choices and offers practical tips they can use in everyday life.

Have you done something that worked to encourage kids and teens to get more physical activity? What did you do?

'Age be Damned'

Written by the International Council on Active Aging

There is a growing sentiment in society today that age is just a number. As our expectations for growing old change, a new mantra is emerging to support this view: “Age be damned.”

At the root of this shift are the scientists who dissect every aspect of growing old—from the impact that lifestyle modifications have on disease management, to preventive strategies that help us age well. These unsung heroes, and their findings, enable us to develop and provide solutions that can reduce many of the challenges and obstacles associated with growing old. Their efforts drive recommendations and demands for new models and social contracts that promote older adults’ abilities and contributions. And their findings encourage us to recognize the benefits of a more cohesive, inclusive society. This growing body of research is not only shifting views and expectations of what is possible over the life course, but redefining the life course as well.

The World Health Organization’s director general shares the new way of thinking. “When a 100-year-old man finishes a marathon, as happened last year, we know that conventional conceptions of old age must change,” said Margaret Chan in her World Health Day message in 2012. And change they are.

A new survey from AARP shows that people in their 60s (69%) and 70s (69%) are not letting problems with their physical health hold them back from what they want. Those in their 40s (58%) and 50s (63%), however, find this a bigger issue.

Still, “89% of older adults and 84% of younger adults say they’re confident they can maintain a high quality of life throughout their senior years,” reports a 2014 survey conducted by the National Council on Aging, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, UnitedHealthcare and USA Today.

The question is: Is this raw optimism based on facts or denial of facts?

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Nutrition and Physical Activity Training for Healthcare Providers

Community Health Centers are non-profit clinics that are located in medically underserved areas. They serve over 22 million people throughout the 50 states and U.S. territories. These centers play an important role in delivering healthcare for vulnerable populations and can save money by reducing the need for more expensive specialty care visits, which leads to savings for the entire health care system.

Nutrition & Physical Activity Counseling – Recent Report

Healthcare providers working in Community Health Centers and in other settings needed to be well-versed in a variety of issues, including nutrition and physical activity. Counseling in both of these areas is helpful in managing and treating obesity and other related chronic diseases (diabetes, hypertension, etc.). According to a recent report released by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and the American College of Sports Medicine, less than one quarter of physicians feel they received adequate training to counseling their patients on these topics.

Medical students and healthcare professionals acknowledge they need to know more about nutrition and physical activity counseling, specifically:

  • What to say
  • How to say it
  • Who else can help
  • What other resources exist
  • How the patient experiences it

Several studies have shown that when counseled by their provider to lose weight, patients are more likely to attempt weight loss and increase their physical activity. Yet, less than 13% of medical visits include counseling for nutrition.

Infographic source: http://bipartisanpolicy.org/library/report/teaching-nutrition-and-physical-activity-medical-school-training-doctors-prevention

Recommendations from the Report

There are several strategies for increasing training in these areas, such as developing a standard nutrition and physical activity curriculum in schools and including more of this content in licensing and certification exams. Some initiatives have already begun to increase training in these areas, but there is still a need to broaden awareness for more changes in medical education.

Has your healthcare provider recently given you advice on nutrition and physical activity? If not, would you feel confident asking your provider for advice on these topics during your next visit? If you are a provider, do you discuss nutrition and physical activity with your patients?

Accessibility is More than Getting in the Door

Written by NCHPAD

It is well reported that exercise is a vital component to leading a healthy lifestyle.  The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAG) are in place to outline and support the minimum amounts of activity that adults, including those with disabilities, should get per week.  For some, achieving the PAG may be a simple feat, but for others, such as people with disabilities, physical activity opportunities might be an exercise in frustration.  People with disabilities are more susceptible to barriers to physical activity most often reported in the areas of architectural, programmatic, and attitudinal.

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Architectural barriers include physical obstacles to inclusion, such as access to buildings or outdoor facilities.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities; Title III of the ADA applies to public accommodations, including fitness centers.  Many people with disabilities can physically enter a fitness center, only to find that there is no equipment accessible to them.  The intent of the ADA is that people of all abilities can equally access all public accommodations; in the case of fitness centers, this means being able to enjoy all membership benefits and access to fitness equipment.  This is not always the case, but efforts to address this barrier and promote universal design are well underway.  In August of 2013, the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) approved two new standards for inclusive fitness equipment.  These standards provide specifications for fitness equipment that is accessible to users of all abilities and will be used to ensure future development and use of fitness equipment that more closely meets the intent of the ADA. 

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