We’ve got one smoking hot lady in the White House. No matter how you vote in November, it will be tough to beat the example of physical fitness that Michelle Obama offers to our nation, and the girl backs it up by promoting programs and initiatives that make this country a force to reckon with. Recently she took on the tired and trite President’s Physical Fitness test, a vestige of the ’80s era of fitness that brought middle-schoolers to a new level of hell with exercises such as the ‘shuttle run’ challenge; the First Lady’s comprehensive initiative, Let’s Move!, breathes new life into old concepts of youth fitness, changing the focus from testing children’s physical performance to challenging them with engaging opportunities to promote a balance of daily physical activity, proper nutrition and positive family interaction. Let’s Move ultimately seeks to motivate youth, parents and caregivers to serve as their own ambassadors of health and in the process uphold the paragon of optimal health that our country has struggled to achieve in recent years.
For those of you who wish to do your part in providing a stellar example of health and fitness for our nation’s young ‘uns, Let’s Move supports the Presidential Activity Lifestyle Award (PALA+) challenge, a government-sponsored program designed to help individuals commit to regular physical activity and healthy eating. Anyone eighteen years or older must commit to being active for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week for six-to-eight weeks, and during this time participants must also focus on weekly healthy eating goals such as choosing lean sources of protein and drinking water instead of sugar-laced beverages. Here are some physical activity ideas to help get you started:
- Walk or run a bridge-to-bridge loop: starting at the fountain at Waterfront Park, walk or run the loop between the Hawthorne and Steel bridges, for a total of 30 minutes or more.
- Experience the Portland 4T: View Portland from its highest point, catch a free ride to the South Waterfront District, and cruise into downtown to experience the city by trail, tram, trolley and train. The walking portion of this excursion, from zoo to tram, is around 4 miles.
- Bike from the Waterfront Bike Path to Kelley Point Park: This 20-mile bike route takes you from the Steel Bridge entrance ramp, through NW and into NE Portland.
- Start training for the Vancouver Marathon 2013: It’s not until June, people… 30 minutes a day starting right now will get you to 26.2 in plenty of time!
- Join a gym: The weather is absolutely divine leading into October so working out inside seems downright tragic, but very soon you’ll be happy for an indoor exercise haven. Put a bit of money down, sign a few papers, and you have no excuse to let your activity level drop off. Locate a gym that offers what you like, be it group exercise classes, a lap pool, or comprehensive cardio theater, or try one these well-known Portland establishments: Snap Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Curves, or Gold’s Gym.
Eating healthily goes hand-in-hand with exercising, and you will find tips for improving your eating habits on the PALA+ website. Beyond including more fruits and vegetables in to your diet, be specific about your weekly nutritional goals, tackling one change at a time before moving onto your next goal, and consider challenging yourself to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of eating, such as:
- Going grain-free for one meal: A meal without grains may seem devoid of pleasure, but with a little thought and preparation, you will most likely experience improved digestive function along with creating new meal options. The added benefit of reducing your intake of grains is that you are more likely to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet and thus take in more nutrients throughout the day.
- Believing in your choices: Put your doubts aside and convince yourself that you are making good decisions about your diet. No one knows your nutritional needs better than you do, so act like the expert you are and believe in your choices.
- Identifying your ‘best-friend foods: Your ‘best friend’ foods are the ones that make you feel good, look good, and will never let you down. Cut back on or eliminate foods that may seem friendly but are really just weighing you down.
- Being grateful: You need not be religious to be grateful for the food on your plate. Reflecting on your meal before it goes into your body underscores the significance of the healing power of food and may encourage you to choose healthier fare.
We are a fortunate nation to have myriad health and nutritional choices available to us, and it is in our country’s best interest for each of us to become the pillars of strength and vitality upon which our country builds its reputation as a leading superpower. Political figures such as Michelle Obama lead the way in resolving the issue of childhood inactivity and obesity, but our youth look first to the adults in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities for direction on how to lead a healthy lifestyle. We must examine our own thoughts and habits, make appropriate changes, and lead by example to experience the pride and joy of good health; our youngest citizens have only to watch, learn, and follow in our footsteps.
Here's a fun way to get 30 minutes of walking in during a lunch hour or break. Get up from your desk, go outside, pick a direction and walk at a good healthy pace in that direction for 15 minutes. Put your cell phone in airplane mode during this time so that you are not tempted to take a call or text. When you have walked for 15 minutes, turn around and walk back to where you started.
It seems easy, and it is. The point is to not "overdo" it. You can probably easily go much farther if you like, but if you keep it at a manageable 30 minutes then you are more likely to be consistent about it and incorporate it into your daily routine. When you make a habit of it then you will see the real benefits of the exercise.