By Pamela M. Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP
I’ve just returned from my trip to keynote the American Council on Exercise’s (ACE) annual meeting in San Diego. ACE certifies fitness professionals from all over the world and the convention hotel was packed with buff bodies. I had the pleasure of listening to my friend and colleague Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition as she introduced a special member of her council, Cornell McClellan, the fitness trainer for the First Family. Upon meeting him, I couldn’t help but ask if the First Lady’s arms were a matter of great genetics or if he had a hand (or arm) in beautifying her bountiful biceps. Smiling, he said “Great genetics and consistent workouts are her recipe for success.” Of course that was a call to arms (!) to me to whip out my guns and engage in a little horseplay for the cameras with Cornell. Such fun!
In his address to the ACE audience that day, Cornell noted: “[Working with the Obamas] was an easy sell for me, because I thought of it as kind of a duty, to serve the president.” According to Cornell, Mr. and Mrs. Obama both try to exercise for at least an hour every day, and Cornell says he usually sees them two to four times a week, depending on their schedules.
As a member of the President’s Council, Cornell also reinforced the need to get all Americans, kids and adults, to participate in the President’s Challenge and specifically the President’s Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) program. This is geared toward anyone who wants to get started on a lifetime journey of healthy lifestyle habits and helps you track your progress with a nifty free personal activity log on the site where you can create your own individual account. Here’s what you need to do in order to qualify to receive your PALA certificate:
1) Move: Get in 30 minutes of some kind of cardio 5 days per week for six weeks or rack up 8500 daily activity steps per day using a pedometer. And, for heaven’s sake, have fun! Why not get up and dance by yourself or with your kids or family or friends? Play with the kids. Walk the dog. Garden for hours. Go to yoga class. Walk or hike or run. Shoot hoops with the kids or your friends. Just get up and stay vertical as much as you can throughout the day. Remember, 30 minutes is the minimum to get your award certificate.
2) Eat: While you’re getting more physically active, you’ll also need to eat nutritious food. So, during your 6 weeks, you’ll be choosing a healthy eating goal each week. The website offers a list of 8 goals to select from. They involve the quality, quantity and frequency with which you eat. While you’re at it, get back to basics by cooking more. Science shows that those who cook drop weight faster than those who are doing the grab-and-go with processed food in bags and boxes. Boil some water and let’s get that vegetable soup happening. Whole foods nourish your mind and body.
You may notice that there’s been a change in the President’s Council name. Yep, this year they added “nutrition” along with the sports and fitness. This makes a world of good sense since living a healthy lifestyle is all about balance—what goes in must come out.
If you’re a parent, why don’t you get the whole family involved? Make it a game for the kids. Offer them some cool non-food awards for their participation. Take this PALA program to your kid’s school and get whole classes and maybe even the entire school involved. Kids love to track their progress on the computer and compete with each other. What a terrific way to make eating well and being more active fun, challenging and front and center in kids’ minds as well as the parents’ who need to mentor them through this journey.
Hey, while you’re on the President’s Challenge website, click on the kids’ and adults’ fitness test. Have some more fun and see where you fit compared to your peers. The kids are evaluated in five activities:
* Curl-ups (or partial curl-ups)
* Shuttle run
* Endurance run/walk
* Pull-ups (or right angle push-ups or flexed-arm hang)
* V-sit reach (or sit and reach)
For adults, the test covers:
* Aerobic fitness—the ability of your heart and lungs to deliver blood to muscles
* Muscular strength and endurance—whether you are strong enough to do normal activities easily and protect your lower back
* Flexibility—the ability to move your joints through their proper range of motion
* Body composition—whether you have too much body fat, especially around the waist
Just for fun, log onto the site and test yourself today. It may be an eye-opening experience. You’ll either be giving yourself an “Atta boy/girl” for already being in great shape, and encouragement to continue to work it, or you may be shocked, dismayed and spurred to action. Either way it’s a win-win, so let’s get going already!