“The fitness of our people is one of the foundation stones of our national greatness. It will help determine our capacity to respond to the many challenges of this time of change and conflict.”


Rogena Schuyler Silverman

As of press time, First Lady Michelle Obama launched “Let’s Move,” her national public-awareness campaign focusing on childhood obesity. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an estimated 2.7 million children are classified as severely obese, and 80% will grow up to be obese adults. It is even predicted that these children will experience shorter life spans than their parents. But the problem goes deeper than that, as many of these children are currently at risk for developing hormonal imbalances, high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes, and even stroke—not in adulthood, but now.

According to Obama: “Obesity has been recognized as a problem for decades, but efforts to address this crisis to date have been insufficient.” The First Lady’s concerns mirror those of President John F. Kennedy, who in 1961 established the Youth Fitness Program (an extension of President Dwight Eisenhower’s Council on Fitness and Sports), when he recognized that American youth were out of shape, compared to the young people in Europe. Kennedy also observed that technological advances were contributing to decreased activity levels, and feared that day-to-day activities would soon not be enough to maintain basic physical fitness. He proposed the implementation of readily accessible fitness programs in every school and community in the nation. Flash forward 50 years—school budgets have eliminated many of the fitness programs that were once available, and technology has advanced to the degree that the only activity most children (and adults) experience is in maneuvering through a game on their iPods. A change is definitely needed.

The First Lady has stated that her goal for the “Let’s Move” program is to end obesity within a generation. Obviously an ambitious undertaking, this is a program that must be implemented at the grass roots level if it is to succeed. This national project is an ideal platform for you, the physical therapy professional, to play an enormous role in raising awareness of the First Lady’s agenda. Become a fitness advisor for your community, launch education and outreach programs (especially in areas where PE and after school activities have been cut due to funding issues), offer youth-focused fitness activities (yoga, Pilates, martial arts) through your practice, or, perhaps, help establish health and fitness awareness programs through local civic centers, hospitals, and churches to help the entire community (children and adults) to get up and get moving.

One thing is certain, when Michelle Obama launched her campaign against obesity, she was laying the foundation stones for future generations.


Editor’s note:
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