Physical activity: Keep it green, involve the community
March 2009
Shape Up America! Newsletter

Green and Lean: Physical Activity (Second in a series)
by Barbara J. Moore, PhD
This series of articles is intended to illustrate how you can shrink your carbon footprint and your waist circumference at the same time. The first article focused on food; this article discusses physical activity.

If extraterrestrials landed on our planet, they would conclude that the automobile is the dominant form of life. So much of daily living involves a car. Many of us commute to work and travel to shopping and recreational opportunities in our cars. For some, it is a second dining room. Yet if we could get out of our cars more often, we would burn more calories and help make weight control a little easier. But our communities are often designed without sidewalks or bike paths, making many of our neighborhoods unsafe for travel by bicycle or on foot.

According to a recent study,1 Europeans walk an average of 382 kilometers (237 miles) per person each year. Europeans also bike more, racking up 5 times more miles on bicycles as compared to Americans. These data correspond to the much lower rates of obesity in many European countries such as Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands than in America. They also reflect the fact that many European communities are better designed to promote walking and biking than communities in the U.S. A future article will discuss community design in greater detail.

Here are some ideas to get you out of your car and onto your feet (or a bicycle) to help you trim your weight and reduce carbon emissions at the same time:

The most important way in which urban dwellers can save money and reduce their carbon footprint is by building and supporting non-automotive transport — buses, subways, trolleys, etc. — that move large groups of people using less energy per person. Take advantage of mass transit whenever possible, but get off a few blocks ahead of your stop so that you can get some exercise and burn some calories. Develop a mind set in which you are constantly seeking opportunities to move more. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. In a high-rise office building, if stairwells are safe, take the elevator part way up and walk a few flights to your office. Take the stairs down on a routine basis. If your workplace has a casual dress code, plan to dress comfortably so you can walk to or from work at least once a week.

Organize your co-workers and as a group, ask your employer to establish programs and build facilities that will encourage mass transit and non-automotive transit for commutation, as well as promote exercise in the workplace. Many employers have found that building walking paths, installing bike racks and exercise rooms with showers can boost morale and worker productivity. As a provider of jobs, your employer can be an important source of political influence in your community when it comes to planning and zoning.

When you are on your own time, think about ways to consolidate errands and shopping so that you make fewer trips by car, and wherever possible, walk or bike instead. Invest in a shopping cart to make it easier to transport groceries. Put baskets on your bicycle for toting your briefcase or groceries.

For fun and relaxation, plan recreational outings to local parks that you can access using mass transit or by bicycle or on foot. If you must use a car, plan to go in groups so that the energy costs per person are minimized.

Investigate community programs and find new friends that share your appreciation for conserving energy and pursuing a physically active lifestyle. Make regular plans to get together to hike, bike, swim or cross-country ski. Explore and discover new activities together. Discuss ways to help each other shop and run errands so that car usage is minimized.

If you have school-aged children and the school is too far to walk or bike, try to organize a car pool with four other parents so you only have to drive once a week and the car is as full as possible. If walking or biking is possible, but you are concerned about traffic, consider forming a parent group so that once a week, a parent accompanies a group of children to school.

We hope these ideas will inspire you to get out of the car and get moving. Please contact Shape Up America! with more ideas that we can share with our readers.

Barbara J. Moore, PhD, is President and CEO of Shape Up America!

Look To Community for Physical Activity
by JoAnne Owens-Nauslar, EdD
Today's challenging economic climate makes it more difficult to find the time or money to include physical activity in our daily regimen. Health club memberships might be the first item to drop from your family budget, and a second job or increasing work hours to make ends meet leaves little time to fit physical activity into your already lengthy day.

But physical activity doesn't have to cost a lot of money, and there are many factors in places where we live that afford the opportunity to network and connect in efforts to promote physical activity. One of the best ways to get community members to "move to improve" is to examine some of the major ingredients of existing successful activity initiatives. These are some of the common denominators for programs that have sustainability:

  • The Leadership Factor: Find a great program with a knowledgeable leader who mobilizes the community. One person, with a vision and passion, can make a difference.
  • Connectedness: Join a club or a class. When you are part of a group, your chances for continual involvement increase. Exercise can cue up brain neurons for learning, and the social interaction can help the conversation and concepts to lock in.
  • Activity buddies: Find yourself a training partner. For some, exercise can be stressful. Increase your chances of maintaining a physical activity regimen by having two or more activity buddies. The conversation stimulated will help the time fly by.
  • Media Coverage: Become part of a collective event in your community. A great human interest story can help increase the number of participants. Knowing who to contact, what is expected, and why someone will benefit from participation should be clearly defined in the publicity.
  • The Challenge: Take part in something new. Capitalize on the competitive element that most of us have. Find another community or group of similar size or interest, and let the "physical activity challenge" begin.
  • The Fun Factor: A best dressed pet contest can always be capped off with a walk in the park to showcase the pooch fashions.
  • The Thank You Factor: Organizers, sponsors and workers all need to know they are valued and appreciated.

These programs have key ingredients for sustainability and community involvement. Check them out and add your initiative to the list:

  • The National Leagues of Cities sponsors The Mayors' Action Challenge for Children and Families. Talk with your mayor, send the link to the program, and encourage your mayor to mobilize your community for physical activity.
  • America on the Move challenges you, your family and your community to learn more about the new National Physical Activity Guidelines, and to take small steps to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
  • Be Active Your Way: A Guide for Adults provides a guide for how you can fit physical activity into your life—your way.
  • Local community hospitals offer classes and lectures promoting healthy lifestyle changes. Check your local events pages for a wide variety of educational classes meeting your unique health needs and interests.
  • The American Heart Association My Start initiative provides free start kits which include plans for initiating and maintaining movement programs, including a walking program with a tracking feature.
  • The National Congress of State Games involves over 40 states and up to 500,000 participants annually in both athletic and educational programs.
  • Lighten Up America is a program designed to impact individual behavior and the culture of work sites and communities through a team approach.

Examples of community initiatives are as creative as the leader who is trying to mobilize the community. Some ideas include:

  • ETC. Gatherings — Exercise, Talk, Coupons Events, which combine meaningful movement with conversation and coupon trading. A one hour gathering could net you 20 minutes of movement, 20 minutes of relaxation and conversation, and 20 minutes for exploring savings.
  • Schools, community-based organizations, and faith-based groups are promoting the fun aspects of physical activity by featuring movement activities by the month. For example: January—King Classic; February—Heart Hustle; March—March Madness; April—Spring Fling; May—Move It-Move It; June—June Jam; July—Firecracker Classic; August—Back to School Classic; September—Labor of Love; October—Pumpkin Stroll; November—Turkey Trot; December—Holiday Hustle. Be sure to secure a safe place to host the event.

Any of these events can be as simple as featuring all types of physical activity to combining food fests, speakers, and prizes. City, county, and state health departments, hospital marketing departments, corporate wellness initiatives, and non-profit organizations are fabulous sources for ideas, information, and resources. It's time to get everyone in America moving!

JoAnne Owens-Nauslar, Ed.D, FASHA, FNAS is Director of Corporate/Community Development at GeoFitness, Inc. in Orlando, FL.

My Story
Yoly became a motivator, personal trainer and a lifestyle-change role model. Here's her inspiring story:

After having 3 kids and becoming a stay at home mom, I had started to gain some weight. After my son (who was 4 then) took a picture of me in a pair of shorts, I realized how fat I had allowed myself to become. I was mad at myself! There were no excuses because I had never been overweight. I decided I needed to find an activity I enjoyed. I had played basketball in high school but remembered how much I loved tennis but never got a chance to learn the game. I joined a tennis clinic with some of my friends at my local YMCA. It was then that I realized how out of shape I had become! Read More...

Shape Up America! wants to hear about you! If you would like to share your personal success story and be an inspiration to others who desire to lose weight, simply use our story submission system on the SUA Web site.

Share your recipes with others
Do you have an original, healthy recipe that you would like to share with other visitors to Shape Up America! We are especially interested in recipes for adults or children that feature fruits, vegetable, whole grains, low fat dairy or lean protein. If you would like to suggest an original recipe for possible inclusion in the Shape Up America! newsletter or on our website, go to our recipe submission page. We appreciate your interest!

Menus for Weight Loss and Healthy Eating
Shape Up America! offers these simple, convenient 1500 calorie and 2000 calorie menus to help you eat healthfully while controlling your calories.

Recipe of the Month
This delicious vegetable stew can be served alone, as a side dish over brown rice, cubed potatoes or pasta, or mixed with cooked diced chicken for a hearty meal.
Makes 4 servings


  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, peeled and chopped fine
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, stem and seeds removed, cut into 1/4" dice
  • 1 green pepper, stem and seeds removed, cut into 1/4" dice
  • 1 small eggplant, stem removed, with skin, cut into 1/4" dice
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into 1/4" dice
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp. dry


  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Add onions, sauté until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes (lower heat if necessary to ensure that the onions cook evenly without browning). Add garlic, sauté 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Add red and green pepper and sauté until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and add to onion/garlic mixture. Place pan back on heat and when hot, add the other Tbsp. of oil. Add eggplant and sauté until lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and repeat with the zucchini.
  3. Return all vegetables to pan, stir in the tomato paste and cook, over low heat, until all vegetables are tender, and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add thyme.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 130 calories, 7 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 16 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams protein, 6 grams dietary fiber, 115 milligrams sodium.

Source: Shape Up America!

phone: 406-686-4844

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Editor: Adrienne Forman, MS, RD

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