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February marks another milestone in the movement for a healthier generation - the 3rd year anniversary of the Let's Move! campaign. This month, Be Active Your Way bloggers will reflect on work that has been done to combat childhood obesity, as well as the road ahead.

To celebrate the Anniversary of Let's Move!, you'll hear from:

Health Clubs Filling Void Left By Cuts to Recess/PE

by IHRSA January 24, 2013

As a trade association for fitness centers, IHRSA is responsible for creating and fostering an industry marketplace for creative programming. A particularly robust segment of that marketplace relates to youth programming in health clubs. Ideas are swirling about engagement, program design, and how to collaborate with communities to fill gaps left by budget cuts to recess and physical education.

To the surprise of policymakers, the health club market is already serving millions of American children.

In fact, IHRSA surveys indicate:

  • 26 percent of commercial health clubs offer youth-specific programming
  • 20 percent of commercial health clubs offer a kids-only section
  • Commercial health clubs serve more than 5.7 million members under the age of 18, including 2.3 million between 6 and 12 years old, and 3.4 million between 13 and 17
  • The number of children using commercial health clubs has increased by 209 percent since 1990

IHRSA recently profiled several clubs offering youth programming. One club, for example, reported great success and engagement with age-appropriate versions of historically adult programs, such as yoga, Zumba, boxing, mixed martial arts, and triathlon clinics. Other notable programs include physical education classes, after school “active” care, climbing wall sessions, suspension training, tumbling classes, group cycling, and even cooking classes.

In earlier posts, we’ve noted that health clubs provide a safe location, supportive environment, and a variety of options for meaningful physical activity, but behavior research points to additional benefits for children.  

For example, family health club memberships can positively influence and reinforce healthy behaviors of both children and adults. As one IHRSA member recently noted, “In many communities, health clubs are one of the few places where families can exercise: parents can work out, while their children are having fun and getting healthy. We make it easy for them.” This family dynamic is particularly important for youth fitness in light of recent research findings that suggest that children are influenced by their parents’ activity levels.

Of course, any discussion about improving population health must consider the cost of implementation. Certainly, membership fees are a factor in determining the overall impact of the fitness industry to improve the fitness levels of American youth, but to a much lesser degree than commonly assumed.  Health clubs may not be the right option for every American, but we believe that affordable choices exist for the great majority of American families. Often, affordability is simply a matter of budgetary priorities and Americans have an unfortunate history of assigning a low value to physical activity. When compared with the monthly cost of premium cable TV, cell phone service, junk food, video games, or even coffee, a health club membership can be a very accessible option.

What are some youth programs that could be implemented in a fitness center?

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Start the Year Off Right with a Commitment to Health

by ACSM January 16, 2013

A newfound - or renewed - commitment to health is a common sentiment each year after the holiday season of sweet treats, calorie-laden cocktails and scarce free time to stick to a fitness routine. Year after year, many people resolve to lose weight, get fit and be healthier, using the turn of a new year as motivation to turn over a new leaf. Many resolutions, made with the best of intentions, are broken almost before the New Year's Eve confetti is cleaned up, and few last until spring.

The keys to lifelong healthy habits include:

  • Setting realistic expectations, based on a knowledge of the facts and of your own goals, motivation and lifestyle
  • Building physical activity into your daily life and following healthy eating habits
  • Understanding that you will have lapses, plateaus and changes of circumstance that need not derail your overall progress
  • Knowing where to turn for factual information and personal support

Enjoyable alternatives offer healthy activity

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 150 minutes (or 2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week. If you're not currently physically active, this might be a great time to return to an activity you loved in the past or to get involved with a team sport. Not competitive? Don't like to run? A dance-based fitness class or yoga might be for you. Don't forget that consulting a certified trainer, exercise physiologist, or medical professional is always an important step before starting a new fitness program.

Cost need not be a concern

Financial constraints also weigh heavy on the minds of many as the new year begins. However, being healthy and fit doesn't require an expensive investment. Body weight training, or exercise that uses the body as resistance instead of equipment, was the most upwardly mobile activity on ACSM's 2013 fitness trends forecast. Body weight training can be done anywhere, including at home, and doesn't require a financial investment.

Beyond being buff - staying healthy throughout life

A desire to be fit isn't all about vanity. The most common diseases plaguing our world today are diseases caused by sedentary lifestyle - like hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, among others. Our daily lives are becoming increasingly scheduled around sitting: sitting at work, sitting in the car during long commutes, and sitting in the evening in front of the television. Committing to a healthy lifestyle not only can help you look good and feel good, but can keep the doctor away too.

For further reading on this topic, visit: "New Year, New Fitness Habits."

Look Past Clever Ads to Find Fun Family Physical Activity Opportunities

by ACSM December 12, 2012

Marketing: A Powerful Force

Families are inundated with powerful and noisy advertisements in the fields of health and fitness, many suggesting get-fit-quick products. Fitness and sports marketing may lead us to believe we can get six-pack abs through a new exercise device or that a certain pair of shoes will make us play like the pros... if only that were true!

As effective as these ads may be, they often leave the customer disappointed and frustrated with the results, or lack thereof. In addition to quick-fix disappointments, we constantly see ads for junk food via TV, radio, billboards, Internet, etc. Everywhere we look, there is temptation and the lure of a quick, family-pleasing meal.

How can families combat the marketing influencers and build a healthy lifestyle that will stick?

Fight Back for Physical Activity

The answer is simple: be active as a family, and talk about healthy lifestyles. Incorporating physical activity into busy family life doesn't have to be expensive, time-consuming or difficult. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans state that children should be active for 60 minutes per day and adults should be active for 150 minutes per week. This can be as easy as walking or jogging, or as fun as shooting hoops or playing capture the flag. Parents can take part in family bonding activities while staying in shape, like taking a 20-30 minute to walk with their children after dinner or before school.

The American College of Sports Medicine's 2013 Health and Fitness Trends predict that 2013 will bring in many easy and economically friendly activities, such as body weight training. Make a goal to try at least four of the activities on the trend list - and see what works best for you and your family.

It's also important to talk together about the need to eat healthy meals and get regular physical activity. Children should learn to consider the sources of nutritional or exercise information they receive and to make judgments about what to believe and what advice to follow.

Marketers may be savvy by convincing us that we must have the latest product for a healthy life or fit physique. However, setting realistic goals, creating a schedule for fitness activities, and sharing solid information and goals can help families develop truly healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

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