January is National Family Fit Lifestyle month, and it couldn’t come at a better time. After the excesses of the holiday season and the pressure to make (and keep) New Year’s resolutions wanes, making a plan to get active with your family seems only natural. With today’s average U.S. adult watching two and a half months of television every year (five hours a day, on average), our kids could use a better example.
Already there has been a reduction in the amount of exercise most children get on a daily basis, resulting in some distressing statistics:
- Obesity rates among school-aged children are estimated between 15 and 25%, holding steady at 17% on average since 2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- Obesity rates are higher among minority and low-income households, indicating that opportunities for education on health and fitness in school are important
- According to The Children’s Aid Society, only about half of all children aged 12-21 exercise daily
- Kids today sit in front of a screen (TV, computer, or handheld device) an average of seven and a half hours daily, bringing their annual screen-time total to a whopping 114 days of screen time a year
- More than 80% of adults and children do not get the minimum recommended amounts of aerobic exercise daily
National Family Fit Lifestyle Month is just one of the many initiatives started to address exercise and healthy living for families.
Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move!
First Lady Michelle Obama started this campaign in 2010 to bring awareness to the epidemic of obesity and the prevalence of unhealthy food in our homes and school cafeterias. Planting gardens, learning to cook fresh food, and designing an exercise plan are just a few of the initiatives in this campaign that have spread across the country.
NFL Play 60
Even the National Football League (NFL) is in on the action with their Play 60 program that encourages kids to go outside in their communities to play a minimum of 60 minutes every day.
The American Council of Exercise (ACE) has partnered with the Henkel company to promote fitness and exercise for youth, citing trends in youth obesity and cuts to education funding as the driving force behind their partnership. “Childhood obesity has become a critical concern, as have the budget issues faced by schools across the country that have negatively impacted physical education programs,” said Scott Goudeseune, ACE president and CEO. This partnership aims to educate and empower families with tips and suggestions for incorporating exercise into family life every day.
Other programs supporting National Family Fit Lifestyle Month
Other large companies like Reebok and Underarmour have announced fitness initiatives of their own, from donating money to local non-profits to ensuring access to sports and fitness for underserved communities and populations. Prompted by a dire report on physical (in)activity across the globe called Designed to Move, Nike has partnered with hundreds of communities across the world to encourage youth fitness.
Nike Brand President Charlie Denson announced the initiative in 2012 with this rationale:
“By committing to create a healthier future, we believe there is an opportunity for all of us to think differently and work together to help reverse those trends that continue to prevent children around the world from having access to sport. We can break cycles of physical inactivity where they are deeply entrenched and where they are beginning to emerge.”
Some of the most effective initiatives that promote youth and family exercise are present in smaller communities across the U.S., such as:
- Twin Cities in Motion: This community program covering 11 counties in the St. Paul metro area offers free running shoes, nutrition classes, organized races, and even college scholarships for two local athletes.
- MyFi Dallas: This mayor’s initiative focuses on healthy eating, active living, and positive fitness education for youth and families in Dallas. Tools on the site include mentoring programs and healthy recipes.
- 1,000 Kid Initiative: Sponsored by the Police Activity League (PAL), the 1,000 Kid Initiative aims to recruit and train 20 kids a week who would not normally have access to fitness equipment, activity, or training. PAL is active in many schools across the U.S. and sponsors team sports as well as individual initiatives for fitness in underserved communities.
If your city or town is lacking resources or initiatives that promote fitness and health for kids and families, 2015 is a great year to get started improving the health of your community during National Family Fit Lifestyle Month. Talk with a local YMCA or YWCA about a fitness campaign, or meet with the local community council in your neighborhood to discuss organizing an event such as a fun run or a healthy exercise pledge or challenge. See if there is a PAL in your neighborhood and talk to them about sponsoring community sports or events.
If approaching the whole community seems like too much to start with, talk with your child’s school about starting activities or teams after school in the regularly scheduled after-school programs during National Family Fit Lifestyle Month. This will involve kids who may not normally have access to team sports and is a great way to get started with community organizing.
National Family Fit Lifestyle Month is about getting the whole family involved to get active and healthy in the new year. If your community doesn’t have any fitness initiatives in place, how can you help your community take the first step towards fitness? And what can you start with at home?
Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr