Be Active Your Way Blog
Jim Kauffman is the National Director for Health and Well-being for YMCA of the USA, the national service organization to 2600 YMCAs across the country. Jim has been with the YMCA organization for 28 years, and is currently responsible for developing tools, resources and best practices for YMCA staff to use to impact the health and well-being of 25 million YMCA participants by 2012. Jim pursues a healthy lifestyle with interests in skiing, volunteering, reading, cooking and foreign travel.
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With one in three children in the nation obese or overweight and diabetes rates expected to rise dramatically over the next several decades, the imperative to help and support families sustain healthy lifestyles is as great as ever. Finding time for regular physical activity, eating healthy food, and finding supportive environments and relationships all have an impact on the health and well-being of children, adults, families and the communities where they live.
I can tell you that every day, in Ys across the country, we see and hear about the challenges families face. We know that busy families may feel many barriers to engaging in healthy lifestyles – anything ranging from long work hours, to overscheduled kids, and neighborhoods that are just unsafe for walking and playing. Taking small steps and making incremental changes toward incorporating healthy activities into family routines so they don’t seem cumbersome or overwhelming can be a solution to overcome some barriers.
Healthy Family HomeTM , a YMCA initiative, helps families adopt and maintain healthy behaviors like being more physically active by providing them with fun, simple and engaging activities that they can build into their daily schedules. Healthy Family Home is based on five pillars that support a healthy family home: Eat Healthy; Play Every Day; Get Together; Go Outside; and, Sleep Well. The physical activity component – Play Every Day – focuses on things families can do together. And it doesn’t matter what the activity is, it’s just about getting moving and being together.
The Y understands that healthy living begins at home. It’s important that families create environments that support healthy behaviors but we know that this is sometimes easier said than done. At the Y, we’ve made an intentional effort to support all individuals who struggle to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles. So in addition to the many programs aimed at getting kids and families active inside the walls of the Y – Healthy Family Home helps to ensure that families are equipped to take what they’ve learned at the Y home with them. But you don’t have to be a Y member to reap the benefits. Families who have never even stepped foot in a YMCA can learn how to engage their families in healthy lifestyles by visiting www.ymca.net.
What we’ve learned is that parents want to create healthy environments, but they often don’t know how to make it happen in their home. And a one-size-fits all strategy isn’t going to work for all families. As professionals, we can help guide, support families and provide them with the tools and resources to apply what they’ve learned when they are at home and we aren’t around.
What do you think of Healthy Family Home? For more information about Healthy Family Home, visit: www.ymca.net
How might you help families that you work with adopt and maintain healthy habits?
Tags: Physical activity and families, marketing physical activity to families
Marketing Physical Activity
What do you think of when you hear the word “cancer”? Like me, you probably don’t think of “working out”, or “increased levels of physical activity”. You might think of hair loss, painful treatments, feeling sick, and having no energy, among other things. But for some folks, exercise and physical activity is just what their doctor orders, even if they haven’t been active in the past. In most cases, the physical activity guidelines can be followed by (or modified for) cancer survivors, especially while under the care of an oncologist or other physician. Physical activity not only helps improve their physical health, but can also be instrumental in improving their overall well-being.
The Y started actively working with cancer survivors in organized programs more than three years ago, and has been instrumental in helping cancer survivors understand the role of physical activity in their life, and increasing their levels of physical activity during all phases of their life as a cancer survivor. (For most, the definition of a cancer survivor is anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the minute of their diagnosis).
How did the Y become more effective in increasing activity levels with cancer survivors? Select Ys participated in the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA collaborative, in partnership with the Lance Armstrong Foundation. First, they oriented and trained their staff. Second, they engaged multiple cancer experts and organizations, locally and nationally. Third, they did everything they could to ease cancer survivors into evidence based programs, lead by caring, empathic staff, in safe comfortable surroundings, with other cancer survivors. And fourth, they shared what they learned along with the way.
Staff throughout these Ys were oriented and trained on how to respond appropriately when someone identifies themselves as a cancer survivor. We also learned basic, factual information about cancer, treatments, and ways to successfully engage cancer survivors in safe levels of physical activity. We involved local and national cancer experts during meetings, webinars, and conference calls, to glean more information about safe physical activities for cancer survivors, like weight training, aerobic activity, and flexibility exercises. This was critical to the creditability of the LiveStrong at the Y program, as was the empathic staff who led group physical activities or one-on-one training with cancer survivors.
One of the more creative and helpful aspects of the LiveStrong at the Y program was helping cancer survivors feel in control of their lives, through physical activity. Instead of feeling like their cancer diagnosis was a signal to do nothing (which can lead to a feeling like cancer is controlling your life), participants were encouraged to and participated in physical activities that showed they could indeed increase their physical conditioning, become stronger, more flexible, which overall showed them their cancer was something they could deal with. Working out with other cancer survivors, and even participating in activities that benefited others (park clean ups, food drives, etc.), only enhanced this feeling of being back and being in control of one’s life.
The physical activity guidelines are important for all people, abilities, and mindsets.
How are you using the guidelines in new programs or in programs with new populations?
Tags: Cancer Survivors
Active Advice | Creative programming | Marketing Physical Activity
Successful marketing or programming for older adults begins with understanding “where they are coming from” so that we can best engage them in on-going physical activity. For most in this age group, healthy living, maintaining their independence, playing with grandchildren, and having a basic level of functional fitness is their overall goal (while only a small percentage regularly compete in sports or running races).
Older adults are not all the same, but there are common roles that many of them take on in their everyday lives: caregiver, empty nester, grandparent, breadwinner, retiree, widow/widower, etc. How does your P.A. programming take into account all of these possible roles? Empty nesters may be re-engaging in P.A. after years of doing “not much,” and are looking to join others who look and move “just like them”. Widow/widowers may be looking for clubs and events that not only meet their physical activity goals, but help them build a network or community of peers. Grandparents may be attracted to activities and programs that they can actively do with their grandkids.
Older adults don’t want to buy more “stuff,” but they will spend money on “experiences”. The “bucket list” even if it isn’t written down, isn’t about stuff, it’s about trying new things, visiting more places, meeting interesting people. Does your your marketing or programming emphasis “stuff” like treadmills or balance balls, or “experiences” like working out with new friends and spending quality time with family? Creating significant physical and emotional experiences via physical activity can solidify a commitment to lifelong healthy lifestyles. Older Adult Camps, fossil hunting trips, foreign travel, ethnic cooking classes, financial well-being and living workshops, “Meet the Author” book sessions, can all create these significant experiences.
The way older adults keep score of their physical activity changes over time. An exercise session might not be judged on how many reps, how much weight, or how long the session lasted. A jog in the park might be more about seeing birds, flowers, and having a casual conversation with your jogging buddy, instead of how far or how fast they ran. Have you created any new ways to help Older Adults keep score of their physical activity?
Many have already had a significant health issue (cancer, heart attack, pre-diabetes, etc.) in their life. Some are committed to prevention; some need extra motivation, education, variety and support to get regular physical activity. Some readily admit these health issues directly; others may be embarrassed to let others know. How have you (or your staff) prepared to respond appropriately when a potential member or client reveals they are a cancer survivor, have had a hip replaced, or have limited vision?
The older adult population needs physical activity as much as any group, and the more we can respond to their unique needs, interests, and motivators, the more likely we’ll engage them in meeting the P.A. guidelines. What have you learned about working with older adults that you would like to share?
Tags: Older adults
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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