Be Active Your Way Blog
Shellie Pfohl has spent her career focusing on teaming government with nonprofits and the private sector and as Executive Director of the PCFSN, she manages the activities and operations of the President's Council, an advisory committee to the President and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Image courtesy of the President’s Challenge
Providing low cost, readily accessible tools that organizations and individuals can use to help children increase their levels of physical activity can be a challenge, but it’s one the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports’ (PCPFS) President’s Challenge program is ready to meet. Thanks to one of the goals identified in First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative--to increase youth physical activity as measured through participation in the President’s Challenge Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) , the Council hopes more physical activity practitioners, parents, caregivers, and teachers will know about the tools at their disposal.
In addition to the PALA, the physical activity and fitness awards programs that make up the President’s Challenge offer a low or no cost and easy way to help children and adults stay on track with their physical activity and fitness. While tracking physical activity isn’t for everyone, it can help some realize a goal, such as those outlined in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, and help them work towards improved health.
As the Guidelines for children and adolescents state, young people should engage in a variety of activities that they enjoy. There are over 100 different activities that count towards earning the PALA including skateboarding, soccer, baseball, rock climbing, canoeing, and the increasingly popular video-based physical activity or exer-games. This variety exemplifies the breadth of physical activities, including sports and recreational activities, in which individuals of all ages and abilities can participate to maintain or improve their health.
People need to start someplace and by doing the amount of activity required to earn the PALA, youth and adults are well on their way to realizing the health benefits of physical activity. If you have the capacity to influence a child’s life, take a moment to consider challenging them to earn the PALA. The program is for individuals ages 6 and older, therefore, adults (e.g., parents, grandparents, big brothers or sisters, coaches) have the opportunity to set an example for the children they influence by earning their own PALA, too.
What kinds of tools are you using to increase levels of physical activity among the children you serve? Do you believe that adults can serve as physical activity role-models for youth? Have you had success using awards programs to encourage youth or adult physical activity?
Tags: President’s Challenge, Let’s Move, children and youth, physical activity awards
Credit: Steve Hillebrand/US Fish and Wildlife Service
With millions of acres of public lands and thousands of miles of rivers, Americans have access to an amazing outdoor “gym” in which they can pursue a variety of activities. Between the National Park Service and the Forest Service alone, there are approximately 160,000 miles of trails, 58 national parks, and more than 14,000 recreational sites. This doesn’t include the numerous state and local parks and recreation areas that may be next door to your home, school, or worksite. Contrary to popular belief, being active outdoors doesn’t have to mean a long car trip, a lot of gear, or special skills.
While physical activity researchers and public health professionals tackle the challenge of getting more Americans to meet the recommended levels of physical activity, federal land and water management agencies are tackling questions regarding future generations of conservationists and land managers. Competing interests ranging from organized after school activities to a variety of electronic media and concerns about safety are among the reasons children may not be engaging in outdoor activity as they were 20-30 years ago. If children don’t know about these great “play” spaces, why will they care about them in 5, 10, or 15 years?
This presents a valuable opportunity for land and water management agencies and health organizations to come together for the common good and to help both sectors achieve their ultimate goals. Chapter 8 of the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends communities engage sectors such as parks and recreation and transportation for their capacity to facilitate or enhance participation in a variety of physical activities. Since 2002 a Memorandum of Understanding between the federal land management and public health agencies has encouraged cooperation and information sharing in order to promote the benefits of physical activity on public lands for human and environmental health.
A number of local, state, and national initiatives in the public and private sectors have facilitated communication between the health, park and recreation, and transportation sectors and furthered the reach and scope of initiatives improving health through recreational or nature-based physical activity. A few examples include “Get Fit Great Falls”, “No Child Left Inside”, the Arkansas River Trail Medical Mile, and the Forest Service’s “More Kids in the Woods” challenge cost share initiative. Nationwide, Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs improve the ability of primary and middle school students to safely walk and bicycle to school. Across the country, SRTS programs bring together the very sectors highlighted here in addition to many others.
The President’s Challenge Physical Activity and Fitness Awards Program includes a ready list of outdoor activities users can select to more quickly facilitate tracking those activities on their personal activity tracker. Whether it’s a lunch-time walk or wheel through a nearby park, a bike-ride home on a rail-trail, or fishing in a national wildlife refuge, our nation’s public lands and waters are invaluable in our quest to help Americans be more physically active.
How are you working with your local, state, or federal land management agencies? What opportunities do you have to connect with these agencies to improve the reach of your physical activity programming?
Description: Encouraging partnerships between federal, state, and local land and water management agencies and public health experts and physical activity practitioners to improve levels of physical activity, particularly among our nation’s youth.
Tags: parks and recreation, public lands, partnerships
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.