Be Active Your Way Blog
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Shellie Pfohl has spent her career focusing on teaming government with nonprofits and the private sector and as Executive Director of the PCFSN, she manages the activities and operations of the President's Council, an advisory committee to the President and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Written by: J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health
Cross-posted from the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition blog
Fitness is a word that means something different to everyone. For some, it’s a necessity. A prerequisite for health and wellbeing. For others, it’s a journey. A work in progress. An aspiration. An opportunity.
For me, fitness is exhilaration: the rush of bursting from the blocks at the start of a 200m race; the thrill of sprinting down a basketball court in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Sports, I found as a shy teenager – and as one of the few students of color at my high school – was a means of expressing myself that often seemed truer than anything else, and an outlet that opened up so many more doors of opportunity. As an athlete, I learned lessons about leadership, teamwork, and perseverance that remain with me to this day.
But committing to physical fitness doesn’t have to mean running laps on a track, stepping onto a basketball court, or even joining a gym. It doesn’t have to involve fancy equipment or expensive gear. And it doesn’t mean winning races or setting records. Physical fitness, as I have told kids and parents in my work as a pediatrician, is for everyone. No matter what you look like, where you come from, or what your means, you can get active and get moving. You can make physical activity a way of life. You can improve your health, and jumpstart a better future.
In the face of our country’s obesity epidemic, it is more important than ever that we inspire kids and families to make physical fitness a lifelong habit. Perhaps more than any other health issue, obesity provides a clear example of the racial and ethnic health disparities that have been so costly for communities of color and for our country as a whole. Minorities are far more likely than the rest of the population to be overweight and obese – and to suffer from related conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. Studies show that minority adults are less likely to be physically active. Students of color are less likely to attend physical education classes on a regular basis.
Even as the Affordable Care Act is reducing health disparities by making health care more affordable, strengthening access to quality care, and promoting prevention and wellness, we know that minorities face many more barriers to health and fitness. They also face challenges in many of the places where they live, work, learn, and play – places where the social determinants of health are stacked against our most vulnerable and underserved communities. I heard the stories and worries of the parents of my patients as they told me that their neighborhoods and playgrounds weren’t safe for their kids to play in.
But while these issues are complicated, they are not impossible to overcome. That is why, under the leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama, our administration has declared an ambitious goal: solving childhood obesity within a generation.
The First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign is bringing together community leaders, elected officials, educators, health professionals, faith leaders, business leaders, parents, and even kids themselves to bring an end to childhood obesity.
As schools are stepping up to serve healthier food in their cafeterias, and businesses are working to ensure that more Americans have access to healthy food, elected officials, faith-based organizations, and community groups are finding ways to promote physical activity in their communities. And with the recent launch of the Let’s Move! Active Schools initiative, we are working to bring physical activity back to schools across the nation – because there is no better place to get kids moving, and no better way to inspire them to be physically active for a lifetime.
Already, we are seeing communities and states make great strides in finding new ways to help kids get healthy. But there remains so much more work to be done. In the movement to bring physical activity into all our lives, and raise healthier generations in all our communities, there are many more opportunities yet. To learn more and join in, visit www.LetsMove.gov and www.Fitness.gov.
Tags: physical fitness, health disparities, let's move, schools, childhood obesity
Building Healthy Communities | Childhood Obesity | Schools
Written by Dominique Dawes, Co-Chair of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN)
Originally posted on the PCFSN Blog, in honor of the February 6 observance of National Girls & Women in Sports Day
Each year, this observance provides us with a tremendous opportunity to help get more girls in the game, and make a significant investment in the future of our Nation. I am proud to serve as co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and sound the alarm about the importance of ensuring equitable physical activity opportunities for all Americans.
Throughout my life, I have been transformed and inspired by sports. Since the first time I tumbled into a gymnasium at six years old to becoming an Olympic gold medalist, I was motivated and excited by the opportunities presented to me as an athlete and a coach. I owe my participation and success in
gymnastics (and so much more) to the passage of Title IX of the Education Act of 1972, which has transformed the lives of millions of girls by granting them greater access to participate in sports.
One amazing example of making this investment is in Daly City, California with the Benjamin Franklin Middle School girls’ basketball team. Their coach is 28-year-old Sarah Egan, who in addition to teaching social studies also teaches how to dribble, make layups, and block. The school has mostly low-income students from immigrant families, and Sarah faces significant challenges with her athletes.
In the first season the team didn’t win any games. But that’s not what Sarah focused on. She told her team, “You’re taking baby steps now. But you have it in you to catch up.” The next season 80 girls tried out and Sarah began to pick up the intensity. In the third season the team caught up and won their first game. Things only got better from there: they went to the championship finals. While Sarah taught these athletes the rules of the game, they learned more from each other and the game itself.
Title IX prohibits gender discrimination in educational programs. The law applies to all aspects of educational opportunities, but is most known for how it has impacted sports. Title IX requires that schools provide equal opportunities for male and female students to play sports, give male and female athletes equal athletic scholarship dollars, and provide equal benefits and services to athletes overall.
Since 1972, there has been over a 940% increase in sports participation for females in high school and the NCAA reports that there has been a 456% i
ncrease in female varsity athletes as well. In addition to the physical health benefits sports participation provides, female athletes are more likely to graduate from high school and have higher self-esteem than non-athletes.
Despite these strides, there are still more hurdles to clear. But with inspirational leaders like First Lady Michelle Obama, who launched Let’s Move! to end childhood obesity within a generation three years ago this week, I am confident that we will make even greater strides in the months and years ahead.
The positive impact of girls and women in sports is clear. The investment my family made in me as an athlete has significantly paid off, just like Sarah Egan’s has for the girls’ basketball team at Benjamin Franklin Middle School. Those girls developed skills and lessons that make them strong, smart, and competitive in all aspects of their lives. I urge you to continue to support the girls and women in your life to participate in sports and see what greater opportunities can be created. By doing this you will be investing in a brighter future for our nation.
For more information about National Girls and Women in Sports Day, visit: http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/en/home/advocate/ngwsd/ngwsd
For more on Sarah Egan’s story and to read more success stories from the Faces of Title IX series, visit: Faces of Title IX site: http://www.nwlc.org/title-ix/
Tags: physical activity, national health observance, women in sports, female athletes
Barriers | Events | Policy | Schools
Guest post by Drew Brees and Dominique Dawes, Co-Chairs of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition
National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is the perfect time for children and families to get outside and play together! You don't have to do back flips in the Olympics or throw a football 40 yards down the field to be active and break a sweat. Whether you ride your bike to work or school, or chase after your dog in the park, physical activity can be fun - and it helps you feel good too.
President Barack Obama issues a proclamation during May National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. In that proclamation, he calls on all Americans to make daily physical activity, sports participation and good nutrition a priority in their lives.
You've probably heard that today in America, one third of all children and two-thirds of all adults are overweight or obese. We know that physical activity can help build lean muscle, reduce fat, and promote strong bone, muscle and joint development. So what are you waiting for? Through her Let's Move! initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama has formed a coalition of supporters including community and faith-based organizations, schools and childcare centers, local governments, and corporations to help end childhood obesity within a generation.
This time of year in most parts of the country, the weather makes it easy to explore America's great outdoors. So the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition is challenging everyone to pick up a new activity or sport, and help guide your loved ones and neighbors to better health!
Did you know that May is also Older Americans Month? It's never too early - or too late - to lead a healthy lifestyle. We want Americans of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to set new physical activity and healthy eating goals, and track your progress online while earning a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+). That's right - you can actually receive presidential recognition by improving your health. What more motivation do you need to get fit?
As the First Lady often says, we want to make the healthy choice the easy choice, and PALA+ is the easy choice to jumpstart or maintain a healthy lifestyle. It doesn't matter how old you are or where you live... anyone can participate in PALA+. The physical activity requirements are 60 minutes a day for kids (30 minutes a day for adults), five days a week for six weeks. You should also add a weekly health eating goal each week and build on those goals throughout the same six weeks.
So what are you waiting for? Earn your PALA+ today, and follow us on Twitter @FitnessGov for tips to stay motivated throughout the month!
Tags: Physical Fitness and Sports Month, health observance, play outside, PALA+
Active Advice | Building Healthy Communities | Playing Outside
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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