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Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Proud to Be a Fit and Healthy American

Americans are encouraged to take the President's Challenge and commit to becoming more physically active.

Americans are notorious for being able to rise to, and surmount, the challenges they face. The belief system that a better life exists, and that it can be had by all, fuels the spirit to pursue the American Dream. But, a better life cannot be obtained without better health. Unfortunately, Americans today are less fit and healthy than they were 30 years ago.  Obesity and chronic disease plague our great nation, threatening its vitality. This is due, in part, to the adoption of a lifestyle that lacks sufficient amounts of daily physical activity to promote well-being. To maintain our country's livelihood, Americans have to take action and rise to the challenge--the President's Challenge, that is.

"The President's Challenge campaign is the umbrella for all awards and recognition programs that span across all ages [aimed at] promoting physical activity for all," explained Shellie Pfohl, M.S., Executive Director of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) during our phone interview earlier this week. Since being appointed by President Barack Obama in February, 2010, Pfohl has led the Council in pursuing its mission: "to engage, educate and empower all Americans across the lifespan to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition." The programs housed under the President's Challenge campaign include the Youth Physical Fitness Test, the Adult Fitness Test, The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) and the Presidential Champions Award.

The "Million PALA Challenge" has a goal of getting 1,000,000 children and adults to commit to increasing their daily physical activity level through participation in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Program by September, 2011.

The PALA program is great for beginner exercisers. Its purpose is to help individuals initiate a regular exercise program. PALA participants commit to exercising for 30 minutes a day (60 minutes a day for children), five days per week, for six weeks. They can track their activities online or on a paper log. "The program allows for all levels of activity," stated Pfohl. "Participants can choose any activity they want in order to meet the PALA requirements. We recommend that whatever you choose, you do it briskly enough to get your heart rate up and to make you breathe heavy," she explained. "You do not need to be training for a marathon [for benefit].....the idea is that small steps can add up to equal a big change. Choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator or park further away when you go to the store. It is the everyday changes in our lives that, in the end, makes a big difference" expanded Pfohl. "The importance lies within making these changes become your norm."

The key to PALA's success is that it allows participants to track their daily activities over time so that they can see their progress. "We know that if you track or record what you do, you are more likely to stay with it .....because it helps us to be more accountable to ourselves," noted the PCFSN Executive Director.

The PALA program has support from many businesses, organizations, groups and individuals who have partnered to help promote the campaign. One network that recently joined forces with PCFSN is Sharecare, an interactive question and answer website co-founded by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Jeff Arnold, founder of WebMD. PALA participants who sign on through Sharecare will have access to the site's 450 Sharecare-certified Trainers who can help answer questions and offer support and encouragement. Enrollees will also have access to nutrition and fitness tools, video tutorials and customized diet plans on the Sharecare website. Sharecare encourages interested individuals to enroll by August 22, 2011 by visiting

Adopting healthy habits will optimize your well-being and help to make the American Dream a reality. To help you increase your daily physical activity level, Pfohl recommends that you pick an activity that you really like to do; but, she adds that you should mix it up once in a while. Doing the same activity can become boring, she pointed out. Pfohl encourages you to try new activities and to invite friends and family members to join you to help with motivation. Pfohl also noted that you need to set aside time to take care of yourself. "Enhancing your own health will help you to be the best person you can be and the best person for other people in your life."

To learn more about PALA follow the link to the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award web page. To learn more about how you or your organization can become an advocate for PALA visit the site for the President's Challenge.

Phone Interview with Shellie Pfohl, M.S., Executive Director of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition; July 27, 2011.

Sharecare Press Release; Atlanta, Georgia; July 25, 2011.

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