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Dyane Jean François Headshot

America, Let's Get in Shape!

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This week First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled a report on childhood obesity. Since the 1980s childhood obesity has grown on the exponential curve and now about one in three kids is overweight and nearly one in five is obese. The goal of the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity is to reduce juvenile obesity from 20 to 5 percent. The main course of Mrs. Obama's efforts is nutrition, especially in public schools, where she has made various visits.

Renowned television personality and Chef Jamie Oliver was so overwhelmed by the unhealthy foods one West Virginia school fed its kids that he cried on camera.

But as the non-profit group, "Mission: Readiness, Military Leaders For Kids" points out, this alarming trend in America is not just about kids sneaking an extra candy bar into their room after dinner. A quarter of Americans aged 17 to 24 is too heavy for military service. Given the fact that approximately 80 percent of recruits are 24 or younger, obesity among youths is now a national security risk.

In a satiric piece, The New Yorker chronicled a disastrous mission during which obese soldiers took breaks for snacking and imbibing a refreshing Diet Coke while the enemy advanced into their territory. But this situation hardly seems funny when you see the arduous work some civilians have to put into lifting one foot after another to get on a public bus.

These are all good prods but somehow so many of us are not moving. Why?
A few thoughts to help you get motivated.

First, to become fit you do not have to join the gym, you just have to become active. Personally, when I think of exercise, I think of guys heaving under colossal machines and the disembodied gym-bunnies who stumble out, unable to stand erect after beating their sinew into submission.

Second, the reason why people fall off the fitness wagon or don't get on at all is because we set the bar too high. I urge you to set your fitness bar on the floor so that you'll be able to walk over it.

Walking is perhaps the best choice for fitness beginners because it is a low impact activity that gives great results. High impact activities like running have a higher risk of injury. Depending on weight, you can burn 183 calories walking at a comfortable two miles per hour. Walking has also been associated with other health benefits including higher survival rates for breast cancer patients and lower the risk of heart disease.

Tips to walk into your life:

Skip the train, take the sidewalk. This is the easiest way to inject some physical activity into your life on a daily basis. You may miss your gym class but you won't miss work. Attaching your exercise routine to something you have to do anyway will make you stay the course.

Workout for your lunch. I've noticed office mates bring their lunch and eat in front of their computers. Even if you've brought your lunch, go out for a 15 minute- walk around the neighborhood (probably the same amount of time it would take you to buy lunch if you had to.)

Think of walking as a smoking break. Most people think it takes too long to go out during the work day for a 15-minute walk around the block. How much time smokers spend total on their breaks? If you excuse your smoker colleagues then give yourself a break, take 15 minutes to shift those muscles.

Make it creative. If you have a camera, don't wait for your next vacation. Choose a route in your area you always liked or thought would be interesting to explore. Get there and walk around photographing whatever captures your imagination. At the end, you'll have loads of great memories and a workout under your belt.

Declare a nature day this week. If you live in the city, ride into the nearest National Park. This suggestion is ideal for families - the kids will get a botany lesson and burn major calories without noticing it.

Skip that ridiculous red bus and tour the sites bipedal style. So you're on vacation? No excuses! While other fitness activities may require special apparel or setting, you can walk anywhere, in just about anything you're currently wearing. Stay on track with your workout routine and get a close up view of the place and its dwellers on foot.

Walk like a yogi. Scientific evidence shows that walking promotes mental clarity. All you have to do is walk at a steady pace while breathing comfortably. Just as in Yoga and meditation, focusing on your breath will clear your mental clutter and you will be burning away some flab.

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