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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:

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?

How Parents Can Be Role Models for Healthy Living

by AOSSM September 12, 2012

Childhood obesity has become a public health concern in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 12.5 million children and adolescents are obese. This number accounts for approximately 17% of children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 in the United States. Worse, it estimates that the obesity rate among children and adolescents has tripled since 1980.

Many factors likely play a role in the trend for increasing childhood obesity in the United States. These factors include the consumption of fast food and soft drinks, lack of physical activity, and increased time spent watching television or playing video games.

While preaching better nutrition and physical activity to kids is essential, that message will likely prove far more effective if parents serve as better examples of good health.

What can parents do to lead healthy lifestyles and demonstrate those lifestyle behaviors to their children?

Teach better nutrition

Not only should kids eat healthier foods and drink healthier beverages, they should also learn to make better nutritional choices themselves. Getting rid of junk food and soft drinks can be good start for a healthier family, but children should learn how to choose healthier foods and beverages.

One idea that parents can consider for instilling proper nutrition involves taking the kids to the grocery store. Walk up and down the aisles and teach them why certain foods are more nutritious than others. Then allow them to select some of the foods and drinks themselves, perhaps for a family meal. If they can bring their own lunches to school, allow them to choose foods for their daily lunches.

By teaching nutrition at an early age, it's more likely these youth will make healthier food choices as they get older and more independent.

Limit screen time

The amount of time that kids spend staring at a screen is staggering. When parents consider how much time their children perform these activities, they need to consider how often their kids spend time watching TV, using computers, playing video games, watching movies, or looking at cell phones.

Studies show that kids between the ages of 8 and 18 watch television for an average of 4.5 hours per day. When other forms of screen time are included, this average jumps to 7.5 hours per day.

This screen time can increase the chances that a child becomes obese. Kids are likely to snack, especially on junk food, while watching TV. Also, these young kids will likely see hundreds of advertisements for unhealthy foods and beverages during the television programs. More importantly, some of that 7.5 hours could be spent engaging in regular physical activity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents limit their children's total media consumption to no more than one to two hours per day. While this guideline is critical for children and adolescents to follow, parents should use it as well. It is hard to preach limits on screen time if the parents come home and watch TV too.

Engage the family in physical activity

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that children and adolescents perform at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Parents can play a large role in helping their kids achieve these daily recommendations by engaging them in fun activities involving physical exertion. Jogging, walking, taking bike rides, hiking, and many other activities can be both fun and physically beneficial. To keep the kids enthusiastic about exercise, allowing them to bring their friends or encourage them to pick the activities.

If children see their parents exercising regularly, they are also more likely to accept it as a normal part of their own lives. They might look forward to exercising rather than perceiving it as some sort of punishment.

If parents commit to becoming healthier themselves - making better nutrition choices and performing regular physical activity - their children are much more liekly to emulate these behaviors.

What are you doing to engage your family in fitness?

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Barriers | Recreation

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