The idea of getting fit can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin or see too many hurdles to success. Help the people in your community, workplace or school get started with small, manageable shifts to more exercise and a healthier diet.
Dial Up the Exercise Level
Too many people have a sedentary lifestyle, and it’s affecting their health. Encourage your community to get more active by making small shifts in behavior. Keep in mind that as little as 10 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at a time is effective.
A few short sessions of exercise a day can really add up over the course of a week!
7 simple activity shifts:
- Get off the elevator one floor below your destination and take the stairs up.
- Park a few blocks away from where you’re going and walk the rest of the way.
- At your child’s soccer game, instead of sitting in the stands, walk up and down the field.
- Get the whole family out to walk the dog.
- Use a bicycle instead of driving for your commute or to do errands. If you don't own a bicycle, see if there's a bike-share program in your area.
- Replace a coffee date with friends with a group walk.
- Cut your screen time short and get in a bit of exercise.
May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, and the nicer weather makes it a perfect time to promote getting fit! For a gradual start, walking is easy, convenient and free.
For guidance, including how much exercise different age groups should get, check out the the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Make It All Add Up
Exercise alone isn’t enough to get fully fit – eating a proper diet with appropriate-sized portions is a vital part of the equation. Promote small shifts in nutrition that are sustainable for the long term. People can still eat the things they like, but with healthy modifications.
Instead of focusing on foods in isolation, think in terms of overall patterns of eating – the combination of everything a person eats and drinks regularly over time. Suggest some shifts in eating habits.
Even one dietary change a week puts people on the right path.
7 simple nutritional shifts:
- Switch from soda to water at mealtimes.
- Trade full-fat milk and other dairy products for low-fat versions.
- Modify your chili recipe to include more beans than meat – and throw in different types of beans for variety.
- Select low-salt versions of canned foods.
- Pack a green salad with your lunch instead of a second sandwich or dessert.
- Find a tasty oil-based salad dressing to replace a creamy one.
- For snacks, choose plain popcorn instead of chips.
Find out more about improving eating patterns in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and get more details about shifting to a healthier diet (plus tip sheets on making these changes) at USDA’s Start with Small Changes.
Action Plan for Your Community
As a leader at a school, workplace or a municipality, use some of the following ideas to encourage people to make shifts for wellness and fitness.
- Provide more healthy options in the cafeteria and vending machines.
- Offer nutrition education programs and events.
- Start a vegetable garden on the school property.
- Boost school-based physical activity.
- Get parents involved in promoting healthy changes at home.
- Provide more healthy options in the cafeteria and vending machines, and at meetings and other company events.
- Encourage employees to use breaks for walking, climbing stairs or other activities.
- Offer health and wellness programs and nutrition counseling.
- Help citizens get affordable and healthy food by setting up community gardens.
- Organize farmers’ markets in your area.
- Help food banks to get fresh and healthy provisions.
- Work on community strategies to make your area more attractive for walking and biking.
- Promote fun physical activities such as events for National Bike Month, which also happens in May.
The League of American Bicyclists has resources to help you plan all kinds of Bike Month events.
For more information on various health and wellness products that are available to purchase for your community, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Wellness and Fitness – A Pocket Guide for Success.