The First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative has been embraced by individuals and organizations across the country, and has helped to raise awareness of the importance of healthy behaviors like physical activity and healthy eating. It has also generated additional engagement across all sectors – public and private – in making commitments to help ensure that this generation of children, and those that follow, grow up in environments where the healthy choice is the easy choice. Through the impact of the initiative, we see that Mrs. Obama’s role as the First Lady has truly allowed her to influence the daily lives of thousands.
YMCAs across the nation work every day to support the principles of Let’s Move!. This work is in the DNA of our organization as a nonprofit committed to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. For example, traditional Y programs like youth sports, camps and aquatics all engage children in physical activity and contribute to meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Other programs and activities, such as YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day and Healthy Family Home, send healthy messages home with families. The two programs are similar to the Let’s Move! initiative in that they support children and families in a variety of ways,including encouraging families to play each day, get outside, eat healthier, and connect with each other.
In addition, Ys across the country are working with other leaders to drive strategies that ensure communities are rich in opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating. The Y’s Healthier Communities Initiatives – REACH and Community Transformation Grants (funded by CDC) and Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities (funder by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) – now reach more than 200 communities nationwide. As a result of this work, many more communities have safe places for kids to play, more miles of walking trails, safe routes for children to bike to school, and policies to support physical activity and healthy eating throughout the school day.
Ys are also transforming their own their own environments to support healthy behaviors. Just over a year ago, we made a committment to the First Lady and Partnership for a Healthier America to adopt healthy eating and physical activity standards in Y early childhood and afterschool programs over the next five years; Ys are working toward that goal now. Many Ys are also adopting similar guidelines in other programs including sports, aquatics, membership, camps, and family programs.
All of these initiatives within the Y support the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, as well as Let’s Move! goals. This year’s anniversary of Let’s Move! is a good time to reflect on how we are contributing to the effort to improve the health of our nation’s children. What are you doing or your organization doing to improve healthy behaviors among kids?