'Let's Move' program begins with individuals
By Conrad Anker
Aunts, with the wisdom of age and the comfort afforded by family, are often the best source for practical advice. My Aunt Ann, a teacher by profession, would remonstrate the value of doing homework right the first time with the simple adage of "A stitch in time saves nine." If this didn't sink in, I was reminded, "If you don't have the time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to repeat the work?" These reminders are as applicable to children and homework as it is to our nation's health.
With an eye toward improving the health of our nation, first lady Michelle Obama has set out an ambitious plan of bettering the state of our nation's health through exercise and a more nutritious diet. First ladies have traditionally found a cause that they can support. Nancy Reagan, with "Just Say No," focused on recreational drugs; Barbara Bush supported literacy; Hillary Clinton addressed health care; and Laura Bush, as a librarian, encouraged our nation to read.
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="466" caption="It's easier to run in tennies, Mrs. Obama. Photo from the White House"][/caption]
Perhaps no first lady's plan has been as audacious as Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" program, which has the goal of "solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight." The effect of the health initiative will have far-reaching ramifications on the quality of our life.
The need to address this is ever more pressing. Our nation, with the advent of a rich diet based on corn syrup ingredients and a sedentary lifestyle, has slipped into being the most corpulent nation. Fully 30.6 percent of the U.S. population is overweight. Our neighbors in Mexico took second with 24 percent being overweight. Obesity is the leading preventable cause of premature death. Additional weight has a severe effect on pulmonary and cardiac functions. The stress on the body sends people to the hospital at a younger age with more severe problems. Obviously, the obesity challenge has a direct connection to the cost of health care in our nation. This is a classic example of a "stitch in time saves nine."
Gardens require investment. Preparation, planting and patience are the key ingredients to a bountiful harvest. dedicating a portion of the White House lawn to the kitchen garden, Mrs. Obama brought gardening a fresh face and an appreciation for growing one's own food. Regardless of the quality debate of home produce vs. institutional produce, the family that gardens together has a sense of pride that makes it all worthwhile. Gardening is fun.
A diet higher in fiber and vegetables and lower in fats and sugars is only part of the solution. To maintain fitness, one needs to exercise the equivalent to walking four miles. If one's vocation involves physical activity, the needed exercise is readily available. If not, there is a chance that one needs to lace up the shoes and start exercising the body on a regular basis. To accomplish this, Mrs. Obama has embarked on "Let's Move" to promote in physical fitness.
We can revisit the health-care debate endlessly: Is it the responsibility of the individual, the state or the employer to provide coverage? As significant as this debate is, from a financial standpoint, the greatest cost saving is in preventive medicine.
No question, Mrs. Obama has a Sisyphean task. With planning and perseverance we will be able to create healthier communities. It begins with us as individuals. Reach for the celery instead of the chips and carve out an extra 15 minutes a day to exercise. Be it riding a bike, attending a fitness class or taking in one of our scenic trails, the small change in lifestyle has a collective benefit that will affect the quality of our lives for generations to come.
-- Conrad Anker is a world-renowned climber and conservationist.