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For several years, the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) has been a driving force for policies and initiatives that aim to increase physical activity in the U.S. The Plan consists of comprehesive strategies for all sectors of society that, when implemented, move us closer to a national culture that supports physically active lifestyles. Check back through October to learn how the National Physical Activity Plan is improving opportunities for physical activity in the places we live, work, and play.

This month, you'll hear from:

A Youth Fitness Revolution

by IHRSA October 2, 2012

This past month, the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) unveiled its new Presidential Youth Fitness Program. At first blush, it may seem like simply an update of the youth test familiar to generations of Americans. But that impression would represent a profound misunderstanding of the intent and content of the new test.

In fact, the Presidential Youth Fitness Program marks a fundamental shift in our national discourse on youth fitness.

As described in the PCFSN program materials, "The Presidential Youth Fitness Program places emphasis on the value of living a physically active and healthy lifestyle - in school and beyond."

Furthermore, Dr. Jayne Greenberg, a member of the PCFSN and school district administrator in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, notes that the program will "focus primarily on assessing health versus athleticism for America's youth."

So, basically, the test is no longer a tool for determining which kids won the athletic gene pool lottery. Now it's about assessing and tracking the health of American children. We at IHRSA wholeheartedly, unequivocally, and most enthusiastically applaud this new approach.

The need for this new test is urgent. While we celebrate the launch of the test, policymakers must also grapple with the "F as in Fat Report" released this month by the Trust for America's Health, which suggests that adult obesity rates could reach 60% in 13 states by 2030. All 50 states, according to the report, could experience obesity rates over 44% within 20 years.

We know that the causes of sedentary, unhealthy behaviors are varied and highly individualized, but surely the stigmatization of being labeled "unathletic" at an early age lingers destructively for many older Americans. In this new era of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, young Americans will learn that physical activity is more than just a pull-up test or rope climb. They will learn that it's a gateway to a happier, healthier, and more productive life, regardless of one's ability to complete 60 sit-ups in one minute.

At IHRSA, we are committed to elevating and celebrating the best health club-based youth programs.

In a recent segment of IHRSA's "Ask an Industry Leader" series, we asked, "In a time when childhood obesity is at the forefront, what are good strategies for children/teen programming to get youth in my community more active and engaged in the club?"

Bill Parisi, Founder and CEO of Parisi Speed School, responded:

Youth fitness is all about motivation and engagement. Kids are noth thinking health and longevity, they want to have fun, be competitive, and most importantly, be accepted by their peers." [I also encourage clubs to] make your program inviting to the non-athlete by hiring staff who truly loves kids. The program itself does not have to be overly complicated, but it should be professional. You should have a respected youth performance brand, credible staff, and an environment that is motivating and professional.

What are some other successful strategies for creating effective youth programming?

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Childhood Obesity | Schools

Promoting Exercise for Improved Balance and Falls Prevention

by APTA September 22, 2012

National Falls Prevention Awareness Day is observed on the first day of fall (today!) to increase public awareness and promote activities to reduce falls among older adults. This year's awareness day is themed "Standing Together to Prevent Falls," and 46 states are planning to participate. National Falls Prevention Awareness Day is just one example of the tremendous work over 70 professional organizations, including APTA, federal agencies, and 42 state falls prevention coalitions have done through the Falls Free Initiative.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of older adults fall at least once each year. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. Muscle weakness, balance impairments, and walking difficulties are among the leading risk factors for falls among older adults. Fortunately, various types of exercise can lessen the impact of these factors and reduce one's chances of falling.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recently supported exercise or physical therapy and Vitamin D supplementation to prevent falls among community-dwelling older adults. These recommendations are also supportive of those proposed by the American Geriatrics Society, which recommends balance, walking, and strength training to reduce falls risk.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAG) also recommend balance training at least 3 times per week for older adults at increased risk for falls. This is in addition to the general recommendation for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigourous-intensity aerobic exercise per week and 2 days per week of strength training.

balance training

Balance training should be challenging and progressive in difficulty (such as reducing base of support and/or increasing movement in multiple directions). Group or individual programs that combine balance and strengthening exercises, such as tai chi, have been proven to effectively reduce falls among older adults.

Evidence-based balance exercise programs can be offered in any number of settings. It is also acknowledged that a variety of other healthy aging programs can be strategically offered within facilities to promote and sustain behavior change, address intermediate risk factors or barriers, or serve as entry programs for referral to more targeted fall prevention programming. Many of these programs are already found within communities supported by the US Administration on Community Living. Research supports a minimum of 50 hours of exercise, over a minumum of 12 weeks (6 months is best) to affect balance and falls, so physical therapists need to partner with agencies that can help to augment or supplement our plans of care.

There are many examples of successful partnerships among community agencies and exercise professionals to offer evidence-based and best-practice programs that deliver the recommended type and amount of exercise. Community agencies are also in a strategic position to offer assistance with marketing, recruiting participants, and providing activity space. Potential partners include senior centers, older adult housing, churches, fitness and wellness centers, and nutrition sites.

APTA provides website resources on falls prevention to its members and promotes the Falls Prevention Awareness Day through its e-newsletter. Other awareness and planning resources are also available from the National Coalition on Aging Center for Healthy Aging. How can your organization and members join together to help your communities' older adults improve balance and reduce falls?

Guest bloggers: Lori Schrodt, PT, PhD, Chair of the Health Promotion & Wellness Special Interest Group, Section of Geriatrics, American Physical Therapy Association; (Bonita) Lynn Beattie, PT, MP, MHA, Vice President, Injury Prevention Lead, Falls Free Initiative; Center for Healthy Aging; National Council on Aging; and physical therapist students from Western Carolina University, Andrea Cahoon, Sherrie Flory, Anna King, Caitlin Laemmle, Kenneth Richards, and Monica Vargas.

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Events | Older adults

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

by ACSM September 20, 2012

Obesity rates in the United States have soared among all age groups, particularly among our youth. In fact, more than 23 million children and teenagers (ages 2-19) are obese or overweight, a statistic that health and medical experts consider an epidemic.

As alarming as this is, there are numerous opportunities to start changing this trend. The Childhood Obesity Awareness Month (COAM) website offers a toolkit with statistics, sample news releases, social media messages, and sample letters to editors. Led by the American College of Sports Medicine, the COAM movement is diverse, inclusive, and anchored by grassroots efforts.

Click image below to watch our video on Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

What can you do?

  • Eat more balanced meals and snacks
  • Engage in physical activity more regularly
  • Share your personal plan and commitment with family and friends of all ages
  • Request a proclamation from your mayor and governor

What can schools do?

  • Incorporate physical activity and nutrition into curricula
  • Encourage staff and student wellness
  • Support physical health and education programs
  • Provide physical activity and extracurricular activities focused on healthy living
  • Provide healthy food choices
  • Encourage active transport to school

What can communities do?

  • Provide and maintain safe sidewalks
  • Consider green space and locations conducive to physical activity
  • Endeavor to reduce pollution and improve air quality
  • Emphasize public safety for increased outdoor walk and play

Now that you have the tools, how are you going to help fight childhood obesity in your community?

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