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Be Active Your Way Blog

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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:

The Community is a Perfect Place to Start

by NCPAD June 29, 2011

One of my favorite things to do during the summertime when I was in grade school was going to the pool at my community's recreation center. It was convenient because I lived in town and it was a place where I could socialize with friends.

Looking back almost 20 years later, I realize the importance of the recreation center for me and rest of the community. I grew up in a family where I was encouraged and pushed to be active, regardless of my physical disability. Today, children are less physically active, and instead, playing video games and watching TV. As someone who loves various physical activities, I understand the positive impact physical activity has on an individual's physical and mental well-being. I think this is especially true for children with disabilities. One of the biggest issues is the availability of community physical activity programs for children with disabilities.

With the high obesity rate among Americans - even higher in people with disabilities - communities have the responsibility to provide fitness or physical activity programs for people of all abilities. Today, it's amazing to find so many adaptive sports and recreational opportunities available to people with disabilities, while twenty years ago many of these opportunities were non-existent.

Many of these adaptive sport and physical activity programs are run by non-profit organizations, and now park districts are providing programs. However, it's still not enough. Local communities should be collaborating with school districts to provide programs. Disabilities in general are more "visible" and recognizable in mainstream society now. And, people with disabilities who are living in every community have the right to have fitness/physical activity programs be available to them - just like individuals without disabilities.

Besides the availability of community fitness/physical activity programs, there lies another issue - getting the word out to people. One of the complaints among parents and people with disabilities is that they are unaware these kinds of programs exist. One of the reasons why so many individuals with disabilities do not participate in physical activity is because they don't realize they can, and that it's available. Agency outreach activity needs to be expanded.

In order to get people with disabilities to participate in fitness/physical activity programs they need to be available in communities. This would eliminate people having to search for programs, and accessing them would be easy. One challenge that seems to occur is engaging people with disabilities. I believe that the solution starts in communities, and in collaboration with school districts.

In addition, providing inclusive programs, as well as programs for young children, is a great start. By exposing children to fitness/physical activity programs at an early age, they will continue the behavior as they get older, and receive the health benefits from it. The key is to have programs be available and accessible - the community is a perfect place to start!

What are other ways communities can engage people with disabilities to be physically active?

Rethinking Views on Aging: Engaging Adults in Physical Activity

by ICAA June 22, 2011

In today's society, we're flooded with negative messages and images about what it means to age and to be an older person. We are constantly exposed to stereotypes that show older adults through a lens of decline and diminished value, emphasizing the "burdens" of growing old. In North America, we seldom hear about the value of older adults, or the rich, untapped potential of an aging population. We don't see enough portrayals of active older adults who are taking on new challenges, expanding their knowledge and skills base, or working tirelessly to help others. The result? Our views of aging are distorted.

The distorted view of aging is a major reason we have limited success engaging older adults in physical activity.

Just this month, for example, MSNBC reported on the disconnect between fashion magazines and aging readers. "An analysis of editorial and advertising images reveals that despite proportions of older readers ranging as high as 23%, fashion magazines portray women over 40 sparingly, if at all," writes Stephanie Pappas. "Even in magazines geared toward aging Baby Boomers, the images collectively present a thin, youthful, wrinkle-free ideal that's impossible to maintain later in life."

This ideal has an impact on body image in older women, according to Denise Lewis, a University of Georgia gerontologist and author of the research. "It leads to issues that have people denying age, so going to great lengths to continue to look like that ideal of a youthful person," she explains.  The question is: If aging is something to be negated, denied or even "treated" through plastic surgery, where do we draw the line?

If looking old is somehow unacceptable, what about being old? An ad campaign for Circle K convenience stores blatanly disrespects and dismisses old age. The creative minds behind the campaign have used a drawing of a person in three stages of aging to illustrate the sizes of "Geezerade" slushy drinks and their cost. The eldest stage, which corresponds to the largest and most expensive drink, is an aging caricature: a bald, toothless, wizened old man. "Youngsters" can post their photos on the campaign's website and see themselves turned into "Geezers" - all just for fun, of course.

The "Geezerade" campaign is one overt example of ageism in marketing. But marketers make choices every day that have an impact on how society views aging. The campaigns they create too often reflect and reinforce negative perceptions of aging in society because they show one slice of the aging experience, if they show it at all. Marketing targeted to older people largely misses the mark by failing to connect with the realities of their lives.

One such reality is the ability of older adults to be physically active. Simply shifting attitudes from I can't to I can can help shift society's perceptions of aging, helping more adults to become healthier. 

What can you or your organization do to change perceptions of aging?

Tags: , , ,

Barriers | Building Healthy Communities | Older adults

Communities + Employers = Increased Physical Activity

by NCPPA June 15, 2011

Everyone knows that physical activity is good for us... right? Okay, maybe not everyone, but certainly the vast majority of adults and many, many children, as do policymakers, healthcare professionals, etc. Yet so few of us regularly attain the daily recommendations in the National Physical Activity Guidelines. The million dollar question is: WHY?

The most popular reason listed is time, or lack thereof. For many adults, the amount of time they spend at work and commuting to/from work is in excess of 10 hours a day. Add in other responsibilities - such as children, or perhaps, classes - and there is not much left of their waking hours. While a federal mandate reducing work hours for all would be great, it is clearly not realistic. But, what can be done is to look at how physical activity can be incorporated into the commute and/or the work day, and what role a community plays in helping to make this happen.

Take the commute. There are a variety of ways that physical activity can be integrated into commuting. The National Physical Activity Plan's Transportation and Active Living sector has identified several immediate priorities dedicated to active transportation. Employers, federal and state legislators, as well as communities and individuals themselves must work together if policy change that will encourage active commuting is going to happen.  

Communities can insure that bike racks are installed at transit stations and that commuter parking lots are safe, well lit, and in inclement weather, provide clear sidewalks. Communities could work with employers to institute a bicycle sharing program with locations at local transit stations as well as in areas conducive to places of employment. Such programs allow individuals to "borrow a bike" for a very nominal fee and are increasing in popularity.

And now for the workday... when thinking of communities, we often silo them as their own entities, with their own activities and priorities for serving their residents. We don't often think of them working in partnership with the companies, etc. that may be in their boundaries. Working together with employers, communities can make great strides in helping more people log increased physical activity during the workday. Perhaps a brochure could be developed for those working in the community, highlighting facilities, parks, etc. that are available for physical activity. Another thought is using the employees as focus groups to help determine development and expansion of things like walking trails. Is there a lovely corporate campus headquarter that might be the perfect setting for construction of a non-motorized trail that could serve the needs of both the employees and community residents? Can special rates be offered for a community fitness facility to those that are working in the community but might not be residents? Employees might be new recruiting ground for volunteer youth sport coaches or additional teams for existing or new adult sports leagues.

What ideas do you have for how communities can work together with companies, etc. to make it easier for employees and residents to engage in fitness activities?

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