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July 2011
Active Living ...

 

As we celebrate July as National Recreation and Parks Month, it is a great opportunity to look at some of the incredible steps that are being taken to get people of all ages outside and more active. The perils of “nature deficit disorder” — our nation's declining connection with the great outdoors — have been well documented in this column. From overweight and obesity in childhood, to ailments, conditions and diseases in adulthood, more and more research is coming out showing that these health problems are preventable.


In June, President Barack Obama introduced the National Prevention Strategy, and “Active Living” is one of the primary components of this comprehensive national campaign to transform our healthcare system from one that looks at treating health problems to one that helps people prevent them.

Already, a number of Obama Administration efforts are underway to help support and achieve the goals outlined in the National Prevention Strategy, including the America's Great Outdoors Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to “reconnect Americans, especially children, to America's rivers and waterways, landscapes of national significance, ranches, farms and forests, great parks, and coasts and beaches by exploring a variety of efforts,” says Obama.

Efforts are already underway to promote community-based recreation and conservation, including local parks, greenways, beaches and waterways, all part of the bigger effort to get people outside and more active. And these efforts are in line with recommendations from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity and the new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week, and children and teenagers engage in at least one hour of activity each day.

According to Regina M. Benjamin, MD, Surgeon General, at least 40 percent of adults and 80 percent of adolescents do not meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. That is why the announcement of the National Prevention Strategy comes at such an important time. “This strategy is a critical component of the Affordable Care Act, and it provides an opportunity for us to become a more healthy and fit nation,” notes Benjamin.

Just as government, federal and community efforts are underway to combat inactivity and poor lifestyles, the military community is making great strides in its efforts to not only get service members fitter and healthier, but their families, too.

A good example is the new Healthy Lifestyles Initiative being spearheaded by Navy four-star Adm. James Stavridis, commander, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. The initiative is a EUCOM enterprise-wide campaign that promotes and encourages holistic (physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual) healthy lifestyles for the force and family.

U.S. military installations across Europe are already embracing the initiative, working to expand on and create fitness programs and classes that meet the specific needs of service members, their families and retirees, from fitness classes for spouses and children of those who are deployed, to outdoor recreation programs and trips that are more inclusive of families, retirees and wounded warriors.

“The Healthy Lifestyle Initiative is for everybody, and we need to come together to make this work,” says Renee Champagne, a fitness instructor at Ramstein AB who has become the face for advocacy when it comes to military family-support programs in Germany. “This is a purple community, and this is for the entire Armed Forces over Europe.

“As she astutely points out, for these efforts to be successful, it will take the concerted efforts of the entire EUCOM community, just as the National Prevention Strategy will require a nationwide effort — parents, educators, politicians and community leaders — to truly make a difference.