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Be Active Your Way Blog

February Blog Theme

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:

Encouraging Individuals with Disabilities to Participate in Physical Activity

by NCPAD August 31, 2011

Recruitment is one of the biggest challenges that I have noticed regarding physical activity programs for people with disabilities. I experienced this first hand several years ago, when I was developing adaptive sports and exercise programs for students with disabilities at Kent State University. I remember I was very excited for the opportunity to provide such programs to students with disabilities, and also to have have students try activities that they did not think they could do, or that they knew existed.

With the help of the fitness coordinator and student disability services, I was able to set up a variety of adaptive programs - chair aerobics, yoga, aquatics, archery, rock climbing, skiing and an introduction to wheelchair basketball. I assumed that once these activities were available, students would be lining up to join. The truth was, hardly any of the students voluntarily signed up for any of the programs, and the rest had to be encouraged.

Some students are simply not interested in these types of activities, but others, I believe, just had a lack of knowledge - not knowing these programs exist, and not knowing that they can participate in sports and exercise activities even if they do have a physical disability. Also, sports and exercise are generally introduced early to children. But due to the competitive nature of sports, children with disabilities often don't get to reap the benefits of physical activity at all, or are exposed to them much later in their lives.

Temple University in Philadelphia, PA has one of the most creative programming ideas that I've come across. It's called the Workout Buddy Program, and is one of many available from their Adaptive Recreation Department. The goal of the Workout Buddy Program is to provide an opportunity for students with disabilities to experience various sports and exercise activities. Students with disabilities who want to participate are partnered up with a fellow student/volunteer, and they participate together in whatever activity they choose - tandem walking/jogging, handcycling, aquatics, weight traning, cardiovascular conditioning, etc.

Since many individuals with disabilities are not aware of adaptive sports/recreation programs, there needs to be introductory programs that expose young individuals with disabilities to various physical activities. This group also needs to learn about how exercise and sports can benefit them physically and emotionally, and understand that participating in physical activity improves their health and wellbeing. Universities and colleges in particular should be providing such programs for their students since the setting is ideal for fostering new experiences and self-growth.

What other ways can colleges and universities encourage students with disabilities to join sports, exercise, or recreation programs? Also, should there be more focus on attitudinal change from the nondisabled student population?

WALK! with Aegis Therapies invites participants to adopt healthier, active lifestyles

by ICAA August 24, 2011

What’s creative about walking? If you are Aegis Therapies, a leading provider of contract rehabilitation and wellness services in the United States, the answer is everything.

One of the company’s recent innovations, WALK! with Aegis Therapies, has garnered nationwide attention as more than 50,000 participants collectively walked about 100,000 miles by the end of the company’s weeklong celebration of health and wellness, held September 20–24, in 2010.

How did Aegis accomplish these numbers, especially given the fact that their first Walk Your Ageis event took place in 2009?

First off, the events are hosted at 582 client locations across the US, including independent living communities, assisted living centers, continuing care retirement communities, skilled nursing facilities, and other locations.

Everyone participating in WALK! with Aegis Therapies receives an activity card for the week. Attendees walk 15–30 minutes on each of the five days. They also listen to upbeat songs on CDs narrated by health and fitness expert Chris Freytag, which are custom-made for these activities. In addition to daily walking, the program features other activities designed to encourage active aging and wellness and highlight different dimensions of wellness. These events are structured to remind participants of the importance of nourishing their emotional and intellectual health, in addition to maintaining their physical well-being.

Each participant’s activity card is stamped to mark days they complete both the daily walking exercise and the wellness activity planned for the day. Participating sites calculate miles walked daily by participants at each location, and Aegis staff tally the total miles walked at locations across the nation. Aegis also track contributions of participants who are in wheelchairs or otherwise unable to walk, as they engage in other physical activities.

In addition to walking, each day of WALK! with Aegis Therapies incorporates another dimension of wellness as follows:

Monday: intellectual wellness
Creative and stimulating mental activities include trivia questions about America and brain teasers.

Tuesday: emotional wellness
Activities encourage participants to stay positive, connect with others, and remain physically active. Attendees write thank-you or caring notes to friends, loved ones or caregivers; alternatively, they may engage in another activity that promotes positive thinking.

Wednesday: spiritual wellness
A 15-minute guided meditation segment encourages participants to merge the physical realm of wellness with the spiritual.

Thursday: occupational wellness
Participants engage each other in a game that involves going through the alphabet and listing as many occupations as they can for each letter.

Friday: social wellness
Activities promote social wellness and the importance of socializing with others. Socializing involves using good communications skills, having meaningful relationships, respecting yourself and others, and creating a support system that includes family, friends and caregivers.


Ultimately, WALK! with Aegis Therapies helps to spread the word about the importance of getting—and staying—healthy, and that participants use the program as a springboard to a happier and healthier life.

What are you doing to turn basic ideas into creative programming?


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Creative programming | Events | Older adults | Recreation

Programming...A Path To Policy

by NCPPA August 17, 2011

Program: A planned series of future events, items, or performances.
Policy: A proposed or adopted course or principle of action.

One way to get Americans engaged in physical activity is through the use of programming.  This might mean regular “classes”, special events, etc.  Programs are conducted by government bodies such as recreation and park departments or public schools, by not for profit organizations like the Y, the JCC and also by local community groups.

Programs provide ready made activities that have structure, resources, personnel, etc. but what happens when the class is over or the event ends?  Do those same people still engage in the amount of daily physical activity as recommended in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans?  If not, why not?  Likely, it is not nearly as convenient and in the case of a special event, perhaps it is just not logistically possible.

Let’s look at an example… National Walk to School Day.  Perhaps your community has created activities surrounding this day…maybe they have gathered volunteers to work as crossing guards so that it is safe for children to cross streets or perhaps they have allowed streets to only be one way to enable safe walking and biking.  Many parents participate with their children or talk to their kids who walked/biked about how they enjoyed it…discussion spreads through the “parent network”… “Wouldn’t it be great if the kids could safely walk/bike to school on a regular basis-not just once a year?”  They begin to look at what would be needed to make that happen…perhaps its traffic signals-maybe its crossing guards-perhaps its considering walking/biking when making decisions of where to put schools and when developing neighborhoods. 

Here’s another one…the local swimming pools are very popular with families and kids.  Their activity however, leaves no space for those that want to swim laps.  The manager at one pool notices this and institutes time each hour that allows for lap swimming.  Word spreads through the community and interested parties start asking other managers to do the same on a trial basis…soon a group of dedicated lap swimmers organizes and approaches policy makers asking for a community wide policy to be developed designating lap swimming time.

This is how policy often starts-particularly on the local level.  A group of individuals rally around a problem of common interest and work to educate and influence policy makers about solutions.

The above examples demonstrate how programming can lead to policy.  The National Physical Activity Plan is full of ideas on policies that would make it easier for Americans to engage in physical activity where they work, live, worship, shop and- go to school.  Local groups interested in instituting some of these polices in their own communities might want to consider hosting events or regular activities that can help educate and shape residents to work towards policies that would make it easier to engage in physical activity on a daily basis.  

What ideas do you have for programs that could lead to policies?

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