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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The First Lady's Let's Move! initiative has been embraced by individuals and organizations across the country, and has helped to raise awareness of the importance of healthy behaviors like physical activity and healthy eating. It has also generated additional engagement across all sectors - public and private - in making commitments to help ensure that this generation of children, and those that follow, grow up in environments where the healthy choice is the easy choice. Through the impact of the initiative, we see that Mrs. Obama's role as the First Lady has truly allowed her to influence the daily lives of thousands.
YMCAs across the nation work every day to support the principles of Let's Move!. This work is in the DNA of our organization as a nonprofit committed to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. For example, traditional Y programs like youth sports, camps and aquatics all engage children in physical activity and contribute to meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Other programs and activities, such as YMCA's Healthy Kids Day and Healthy Family Home, send healthy messages home with families. The two programs are similar to the Let's Move! initiative in that they support children and families in a variety of ways,including encouraging families to play each day, get outside, eat healthier, and connect with each other.
In addition, Ys across the country are working with other leaders to drive strategies that ensure communities are rich in opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating. The Y's Healthier Communities Initiatives - REACH and Community Transformation Grants (funded by CDC) and Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities (funder by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) - now reach more than 200 communities nationwide. As a result of this work, many more communities have safe places for kids to play, more miles of walking trails, safe routes for children to bike to school, and policies to support physical activity and healthy eating throughout the school day.
Ys are also transforming their own their own environments to support healthy behaviors. Just over a year ago, we made a committment to the First Lady and Partnership for a Healthier America to adopt healthy eating and physical activity standards in Y early childhood and afterschool programs over the next five years; Ys are working toward that goal now. Many Ys are also adopting similar guidelines in other programs including sports, aquatics, membership, camps, and family programs.
All of these initiatives within the Y support the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, as well as Let's Move! goals. This year's anniversary of Let's Move! is a good time to reflect on how we are contributing to the effort to improve the health of our nation's children. What are you doing or your organization doing to improve healthy behaviors among kids?
Tags: Let's Move, healthy communities, families, physical activity, childhood obesity
Building Healthy Communities | Childhood Obesity | Playing Outside | Schools
There are many great programs that help people engage in physical activity for a period of time - everything from group exercise classes to walking clubs. But in order to ensure that ALL people are able to reach the recommendations for physical activity as outlined in the national Physical Activity Guidelines, these programs need to be supported by policies that ensure that physical activity is within reach to people in their everyday lives so that they might stick with the behavior they are trying to achieve.
Policies can range from community-wide strategies such as "complete streets" initiatives, that make streets safe for everyone - whether they are on foot, in a wheelchair, on a bike or in a car - to worksite policies that open access to and ensure the safety of stairwells so that people can climb the stairs rather than take the elevator.
Communities across the country are part of this movement that is focusing on how policy and environmental change strategies affect health. The Y's Healthier Communities Initiatives are part of that movement, convening leadership teams in more than 200 communities to engage in strategies that promote healthy living. To date, participating communities have made more than 10,000 changes that promote physical activity.
For example, in Marshalltown, Iowa, changes included the allocation of $50,000 in the city budget for sidewalk maintenance (annually) and a $1.5 billion bike trail extension project linking two present trails to make one continous trail for community members to use throughout the community. In Brattleboro, Vermont the town plan included, for the first time, language related to community design in support of walking and cycling for routine physical activity. In Port Huron, Michigan the team convened by the Y was successful in working to increase the amount of physical activity time offered throughout the school day - doubling the required amount of physical education times in elementary schools from 1 to 2 hours per week, beginning in the fall of 2012. Wilton, Connecticut designated an area near a high school track to be used as an outdoor fitness center for use by the public.
Other examples include improving and building sidewalks; addressing safety concerns such as traffic, lighting, and police enforcement; influencing zoning guidelines to encourage physical activity; adding or expanding recess in local schools; creating or enhancing Safe Routes to Schools programs; and offering workplace incentives to engage in physical activity.
As we encourage individuals to engage in physical activity, we must remember that they often need support to make it happen. Making the healthy choice the easy choice will ensure that those healthy behaviors stay with them for a liftime.
What policies have you seen in your own community that encourage physical activity? Tell us a story about someone who has been impacted by these policies.
Tags: PAG, physical activity, policy, determinants of health
Building Healthy Communities | Policy
Some adults think kids have it easy. It’s easier and generally acceptable for kids to be outside playing, whether it be shooting hoops, playing ball, riding a bike, throwing a Frisbee, making up games, or just messing around. For most kids, getting outside to play is fun, easy, inexpensive, and something they can do every day with their friends. All that unstructured playing adds up, and it is the only way some kids come close to meeting the weekly dosage of physical activity according to the published guidelines. Although not all kids have access to safe outdoor play spaces, or enjoy these activities, many do, and kids certainly outnumber adults. Have adults lost their interest in play? Is there a creative way to get adults out to play in the same activities they did as kids? Can we help sedentary adults inch closer to the Physical Activity Guidelines (PAG) through these traditional activities?
YMCA of the USA threw this challenge out to a select group of Ys. What can you do to get kids, and their parents, outdoors, to play every day? This group of Ys did some experimenting with various activities. Although the activities were facilitated by the Y, the activities were co-designed with the actual target audience, and organized every week by Y staff and the participants themselves. Once a week during the summer months, kids and their parents came together to play. Bike riding, games around a campfire, nature hikes, soccer or kickball – all helped these children, teens, parents, grandparents, and other caregivers increase the number of minutes of physical activity to get closer to, or surpass the reccomendations from the PAG.
Can’t forget to mention the important family bonding that occurred through these activities. While the Ys goal was indeed to increase the physical activity levels of everyone involved through play, we helped create the motivation by building connections and friendships between the families, especially child to child and parent to parent. We created a welcoming atmosphere where fun and sweat were valued over skill or winning so that everyone felt they could participate.
For eight weeks last summer, and five weeks (and counting) this summer, Ys have been stirring the interests of kids and their families to come up with fun and enjoyable (but not necessarily new) ideas to get active, and play. And it has worked. In community parks, local swimming pools, school ball fields, and city sidewalks, families are coming together with other families, to enjoy outdoor activities of their choosing, all with the goal of getting more physical activity.
We don’t have a name for any of these programs. Overall we call it Play Every Day Outdoors. All it took was organizational commitment to the PAG, a willingness to engage local families, and an open mind to try a variety of activities.
The adults told us about how much fun they were having, especially playing with their kids. Maybe kids don’t really have it easier to just go out and play. We just think they do.
What activities, old or new, do you think you can use to get more folks active and achieving the P.A. recommendations? What kind of play would you enjoy with your family, every day, outdoors?
Tags: Physical activity, Recreation, Playing outdoors
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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