Research studies have repeatedly demonstrated that engaging in regular physical activity, along with good nutrition, reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure. Exercise also appears to help slow bone loss associated with advancing age, relieve pain associated with arthritis and reduce anxiety and depression.
Yet despite these proven benefits, about 60 percent of American adults do not get enough physical activity to provide health benefits. Twenty-five percent of adults are not physically active at all – and it’s not just adults. Nearly 60 percent of young people ages 9 to 13 do not routinely participate in any organized physical activity during non-school hours. Further, more than 120 million Americans, about 65 percent of the adult population, are overweight, and 59 million Americans, or 31 percent, are obese.
In Colorado, a statewide initiative called Colorado On the Move is under way to help prevent obesity and improve health by encouraging people to increase their lifestyle physical activity. The program’s key message is to "move more and eat less." The initiative encourages Coloradans to make two small daily changes: take 2,000 more steps (equal to walking about one mile or for 15 to 20 minutes) and eat 100 fewer calories (equal to about one pat of butter). Making these two small and achievable changes can help prevent weight gain and/or maintain weight loss as well as provide other health benefits.
Colorado On the Move has programs in schools, work sites and communities designed to help participants monitor and increase physical activity by using inexpensive, easy to wear, electronic step counters. These programs are designed to be fun and show participants how to accumulate steps throughout the day by incorporating physical activity into their lifestyles.
For example, the program offers the following suggestions to increase your steps.
– Take a walk during your lunch hour.
– Walk your dog.
– Park further away at the store.
– Start a walking club.
– March in place while talking on the phone or watching television.
– Take a walk with your family in the evening.
And to decrease your caloric intake by 100 calories a day, try:
– drinking water instead of soda;
– leaving a few bites on your plate at mealtime;
– substituting nonfat milk for whole milk or cream on your cereal and in your coffee; and
– eating a piece of fruit for a snack in place of higher calorie choices, such as crackers or cookies.
For more great ideas on how to move more and eat less, or to register in the program as an individual or group, visit the national America On the Move Web site, which Colorado On the Move is an affiliate, at www.americaonthemove.org.
For more information on the Colorado On the Move initiative, contact Karen Nakandakare either by phone at (303) 315-9039 or by e-mail at Karen.Nakandakare@uchsc.edu.
In Northern Colorado, contact the Kathy Schlepp with the Health District’s On the Move program at (970) 224-5209.
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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension