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.

Posts tagged: physical activity

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/.

'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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Building Healthy, Inclusive Communities for All

Post Submitted by the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD)

Community Health Inclu­sion, a term that describes disability-friendly environments where people with disabilities have access to the same programs and services associated with being as physically active and eating as well as the rest of the community.

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Many communities across the country have participated in a change process to improve the health and health outcomes of their communities, yet more and equal effort is required to address the health barriers and needs of people with disabilities.  Research shows that the estimated 56 million Americans with disabilities are not only at greater risk of developing serious health conditions associated with sedentary lifestyles, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, but also face greater environmental barriers that inhibit their access. Coupled with health promotion initiatives that are inaccessible and seldom target improving the health of people with disabilities, the low activity status of people with disabilities is a concern. The lack of guidance and translation of inclusive practices makes this an issue of public health concern. 

During the first full week of April each year, the American Public Health Association observes National Public Health Week.  This is a time to recognize and highlight successes and areas of need for improving our nation’s health.  This year is a focus on guiding communities through the evolving public health system with the theme “Public Health: Start Here.”  As this week sparks discussion and action towards the evolving public health systems to improve the health and wellness of the entire community, we invite you to embrace the term Community Health Inclusion.  A well-planned, livable community is one that makes the right choice the easy choice by including people of all abilities!

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Dear Area Doc - Let’s Not Be Awkward Anymore

Written by IHRSA

Hey Doc,

We need to talk.

Your patients are sedentary and overweight, and they want to do something about it.

We should be communicating, discussing club programs that would help your patients, and collaborating on initiatives to improve the health of the community.

We know that you know that research has long shown that a healthy, physical active lifestyle can help your patients with prevention and management of several chronic conditions, boost mood, and extend quality life years

And we know you’re busy with your patients and your paperwork, and that you’re trying like crazy to keep up with the rapidly transforming health care system (like that new electronic health record software in your office..,) but an exercise prescription only takes like 30 seconds to fill.

Your patients need to exercise; we provide safe and supportive environments for exercise. Let’s talk!

We know you have questions:

“How do I know your facility is safe for my patients?”

“How will you make my patients, many who have been sedentary for a long time, comfortable in your facility?”

“Do your staff people know what they are talking about?”

We’d love to give you answers.

Are you worried about the cost of attending our facilities?

Consider this…

The average cost of non-insulin prescription diabetes medication is $1,423 per year. If a patient eliminated his or her need for prescription medications like Metformin through diet and exercise, he or she would save enough money to purchase two health club memberships per year.

And depending on the drug and dose required, a lower risk patient who needs statin drugs to lower his or her cholesterol and reduce his or her risk of heart disease can spend $12 - $153 on these drugs per month. The cost for higher risk patients can be $63 - $163 per month. There are currently health clubs that cost as little as $10 - $20 per month, and patients who use diet and exercise with the support of a health club to reduce or eliminate their need for statins will see their club membership pay for itself over time.

So, please, take our calls. Or, better yet, come on over and see what we’re all about. Your patients will love us and they will think you are a hero for recommending us.

All the best,

Your Local IHRSA Members

Teaching Good Habits Through the Eat2WIN Football Camp & Health Combine

Guest Post from Retired NFL Football Player, Langston Moore

From the time I was born 30+ years ago, I’ve always been attached with the “big” moniker. Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina there was nothing wrong with being another “big ole boy” - especially in the land of fabulous food, sugary teas, and of course never needing an excuse to celebrate with food. Looking back on early class pictures I was always the “big kid” in the back row, not just a tall guy but also “husky.” That was a term I first heard while clothes shopping with my mother.  ”Oh, he won’t fit these clothes, he needs to be looking in the husky section.” Being a young child and ignorant to the rest of the world’s issues, I didn’t know this would be telling of how the world viewed “big kids.” Nowadays this “husky” word would be replaced by another phrase something more damning with heavier (no pun intended) connotations: “obese” or even scarier “childhood obesity.” With no states in the union with an obesity rate lower than 25% currently, it’s no wonder the childhood obesity rates follow their parents’ lead. In 1980 (a year before I was born) there was no state in the US with an adult obesity rate of 15% or more.

South Carolina & Childhood Obesity

With South Carolina continually being ranked among the top ten states in obesity and diabetes, it seems we’ve taken the approach of many other states of “lots of talk” and little action or follow through. Coupled with increasing lack of resources in rural, predominantly minority communities, lack of adequate access to whole local grown foods, and increased cultural apathy the problems continue to compound and grow. Our own state governor has declared a “war on fat” in South Carolina, addressed with all the traditional actions we’ve seen on other declared “war” movements, e.g. on drugs and homelessness. In short, in my opinion there are lots of grandiose ideas and good talking points, but very little follow through or action steps.

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Langston Moore Eat2Win Football (FUN)damental Camp

I noticed that our NFL and Collegiate teammates (many from SC that we looked up to) are being impacted by same health issues nationwide, some even dying before the ages of 45. We reached out to our football/sports brethren to create the change we wanted to see. This has led to our tribe to create the Langston Moore Eat2Win football (FUN)damental camp and health combine.

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What To Eat Before You Go To The Gym

Written by IHRSA

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Deciding what to eat day to day can be challenging. Choosing the best thing to eat – a meal that will give you energy to get in a good workout without making you feel too full, sick, or hungry – before you head to the gym can be even more challenging. Every workout is different, so how you fuel up for each one will be different too. You probably wouldn’t eat the same breakfast before an hour on the treadmill as you would before a yoga class.

Nutrients You Need

The two main nutrients your body needs prior to a workout are carbohydrates and protein.

Carbohydrates are the most readily available form of energy and provide fuel for the body. Eating enough carbohydrates before you workout will provide the energy needed to complete the workout. On the other hand, not eating enough could mean you hit the wall before your spin class is over. This can result in a less effective workout, and who wants to get less out of their workout if they made the effort to get to the gym in the first place?

Protein helps prevent hunger from setting in during the workout.

Nutrients to Avoid (Or Eat Less Of)

Within 2-3 hours of a workout it is a good idea to avoid high fat and high fiber foods (like pizza or cruciferous veggies like broccoli). Both of these foods take longer to digest than protein and carbohydrates. Too much fat too close to a workout can leave you feeling full, almost like exercising with a stone in your stomach, and too much fiber can cause upset stomach or stomach cramping, especially during higher impact exercise like running.

What Are The Best Foods?

It is important to eat a meal or snack higher in carbohydrates and moderate in protein before a workout. Carbohydrates should be easy to digest and familiar to you. If you’re just starting out and don’t know what works best for you, try out a few things on shorter or middle distance workouts. Try easily digested carbohydrates like apples, and dried fruit with lean protein like lower sodium deli meat, chicken breast, or jerky. Protein should come from lean sources like chicken, deli meat, or jerky. Also watch out for “protein bars” as the may have more fiber and fat than is optimal.

Pre Workout Meal Ideas

If your pre workout meal is breakfast -  try 2 eggs, 2 slices of Canadian bacon, 1 8 oz glass of OJ, and 1 banana.

If your pre workout meal is lunch – try a whole wheat sandwich with 3 ounces grilled chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, and any other vegetables, and an apple.

If your pre workout meal is a snack – try a Greek yogurt, or if you only have an hour, a piece of fruit.

What do you like to eat before you hit the gym?