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The Importance of Physical Activity for All Americans

Physical Activity | October, 18 2012

By: Dominique Dawes, Three-time Olympic gymnast, motivational speaker and Co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition

Obesity impacts more than just the waistbands of Americans – life expectancy, health, medical spending, and productivity are all affected by the weight of the nation. If recent trends continue, experts predict all adults will be overweight or obese by 2048. The statistics are equally as startling when it comes to youth – one in every three youth are overweight or obese. Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.

Without regular physical activity and good nutrition, these trends likely will not reverse. That is why the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, works every day to promote physical activity and healthier lifestyles among all Americans regardless of age, background or ability.

The benefits of physical activity include a lower risk of premature death, lower rates of disease – including heart disease, stroke, hypertension and cancers of the colon and breast – and improved cognitive capacity.

In fact, physical activity among children not only helps them stay healthy, but studies show that it can also enhance important skills like concentration and problem solving, which can improve their academic performance.  PCFSN highlighted this important message in our recently released public service announcements targeting parents and caregivers, which featured President’s Council co-chair Drew Brees (NFL quarterback) and myself. 

Other PCFSN programs promote physical activity for a wide range of audiences – from Joining Forces (service members and their families) to I Can Do It, You Can Do It! (persons with disabilities) to a collaboration with the President’s Challenge (Presidential Youth Fitness Program for students and the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award for all ages).

Visit the new home of PCFSN at Fitness.gov to learn more about its initiatives, including the physical activity initiative to inspire youth in your community to get active and tips for getting active at any age. For example, Council members highlight their own tips for staying physically active:

  •  “Make exercise a family affair. Physical activity is more than the gym and classes. Dancing, walking or ice skating with your family provides great physical activity opportunities, and is a great way to spend time with your loved ones.” –Cornell McClellan, trainer to the First Family
  •  “When it comes to fitness, you never have to go it alone. Grab a friend! I climbed Kilimanjaro with my daughter and exercise in the mornings with colleagues from work. By sharing time spent being active, we receive much-needed support that helps us reach our goals.” –Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • “Find a way to build physical activity into your daily routine. I led the development of a 2,000 square foot employee wellness center in our district office, but we could not hire anyone to open it. I volunteer to open the wellness center at 6 a.m. so that my colleagues and I can in get our workouts before the workday starts.” –Dr. Jayne Greenberg, district director of physical education and health literacy for Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Fla.)

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