The official newsletter of the President's Challenge                                August 2011  
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topGreetings from the President's Challenge

Physical Activity and Fitness Awards Program!  

You have received the August 2011 issue of Fitness is Fun, the official e-mail distribution of the President's Challenge. These monthly e-mails will keep you updated on our programs, activities of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) and other current information pertaining to health and fitness.



ATTENTION EDUCATORS! The whistle to the right is for you! To help you better navigate our newsletter, the whistle will appear next to any information that directly pertains to you as an educator.  




President's Challenge News


New PALA partners

Sharecare VideosWe're making our final push to meet our goal of one million Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) recipients. Three new organizations have signed on as PC Advocates to support the cause! Sharecare, Competitor Group, Inc. (CGI) and the NHL Nashville Predators have teamed up with the President's Challenge to encourage everyone everywhere to earn their PALA.


Sharecare is an interactive program created by Jeff Arnold and Dr. Mehmet Oz to provide health care information and resources to all consumers. Registration is now closed, but current participants will earn their certificate as well as a PALA badge posted on the Sharecare website after completion. Furthermore, they will receive support from Elite Trainers on Sharecare and gain free access to Dr. Oz's Move it and Lose It program, with personalized menus, food logs, activity tracking and access to hundreds of exercise programs with video tutorials. The Sharecare website features a whole series of videos (pictured right) with ideas and inspiration to help participants. In support of this initiative, PCFSN Council member and White House fitness trainer, Cornell McClellen made appearances on news shows across the nation helping promote the Sharecare PALA Challenge.



Cornell McClellen 



Commit to FitThrough their Commit to Fit initiative, CGI is also promoting participation in PALA challenge. CGI owns and operates 55 national endurance events, like the Rock n Roll series of marathons and half-marathons, for runners, cyclists and triathletes. Those who participate in the Commit to Fit challenge will be eligible for $10 event discount codes for selected events. Additionally, CGI will provide participants with fitness guides, training tips and goal tracking tools. Upon completion of the PALA, award-winners will receive a free limited edition tee in addition to their certificate. 


The Nashville Predators of the NHL are doing their part as well by encouraging their fans to earn their PALAs. Predators' (Preds) fans can join the Preds team by going to and clicking on "Create Account." Those who complete their PALA before Sept. 13 are eligible to win a pair of tickets to the Predator's opening night. Check out their video, featuring First Lady Michelle Obama and Preds Head Athletic Trainer, Dan Redmond, to learn more.  


The Million PALA Challenge will wrap up at the end of September, so if you want to improve your health and be one in a million, get started today by signing up with CGI, the Preds, or as an individual at



PALA 2.0 in the works


As the Million PALA Challenge with the original Presidential Active Lifestyle Award comes to a close, work is underway on the development of a new version.  "PALA 2.0" will include a new user-friendly nutrition component based on the recommendations from the recently debuted MyPlate.  Launch is anticipated for October 2011.  PALA is a program that allows people of all ages to get recognition for their physical activity endeavors and, soon, for their commitment to healthy eating, too.



The Million PALA Challenge will come to a close next month.  If you haven't earned your PALA , now is the time!  Find out how! 



New merchandise coming soon

Keep checking in at the President's Challenge Shop.  We have a whole new line of items coming soon!






This Accusplit� Survivor model (S1XLBK) will give you professional timing for youth and adult fitness testing events. Bonus: It also features the President's Challenge logo.For information on how to order an Accusplit� Survivor  Stopwatch or any of our other fitness products, visit our online shopping center.


red arrowPRICE: $8.50



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PCFSN and Other News


2011 Strength of America Award winners announced

Presented by the PCFSN and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NCSA), this award recognizes high schools that represent the gold standard in strength and conditioning programs. Out of hundreds of eligible schools, nine were selected as the 2011 Strength of America Award winners.  Because of their demonstration of excellence in their school's athletic supervision, education, program and facilities, the following schools were honored during the NSCA's 34th National Conference Awards Banquet July 8:


  • Athens Academy, Coach Bryan Pulliam, Athens, Georgia
  • Castle View High School, Coach Patrick McHenry, Castle Rock, Colorado
  • Charlotte Country Day School, Coach Darnell Clark, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Greater Atlanta Christian School, Coach Gary Schofield, Norcross, Georgia
  • Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Coach Steve Szymkowiak, Flossmoor, Illinois
  • Marquette University High School, Coach Mike Duehring, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Muskego High School, Coach Mike Nitka, Muskego, Wisconsin
  • Widefield High School, Coach Bob Tim, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • School of Human Movement Studies-Western Region Academy of Sport, Coach Stephen Bird, Bathurst, Australia

To learn more, read the official press release .  Schools interested in applying for 2012 should submit their applications by May 15, 2012. To learn more about the Strength of America Award, please contact Boyd Epley, NSCA's Sr. Director of Coaching and Special Projects at 800-815-6826 or email



PCFSN Council member Curtis Pride featured by the AARP for inspiring hearing-impaired youth

Recognized as one of their local heroes, AARP interviewed PCFSN Council member Curtis Pride for a segment of My Generation. In "The Silence of Baseball," Pride discusses the adversities he has overcome as a hearing-impaired athlete.  Deaf at birth from rubella, Pride still went on to receive a full basketball scholarship from the College of William and Mary before he was drafted by the New York Mets.


After an 11-year run in the Big Leagues playing with the Anaheim Angels, Montreal Expos, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Atlanta Braves, Pride is now the head baseball coach at Gallaudet University. There, he has recruited a talented team of deaf and hard-of-hearing young athletes from around the country. Together, they are conquering the challenges of hearing impairment not only on the baseball field, but also in life.


Watch Pride's feature, "The Silence of Baseball," on My Generation or read more from the AARP articleLearn more about Pride and the other council members.


Curtis Pride   



10 teams to "Collaborate for Healthy Weight"

Through the Healthy Weight Collaborative, the DHHS Health Resources and Services Administration will be able to highlight interventions to help communities achieve a healthy weight and health equity. Phase One kicked off with the identification of 10 multi-sector teams from across the U.S.:


  • Massachusetts: Boston Area Collaborative for Health
  • New York: Greater Rochester Obesity Collaborative
  • Virginia: St. Charles Health Council
  • Florida: Community Health  Improvement Partnership
  • Ohio: Ohio Healthy Weight Outcome Coalition
  • Arkansas: ARcare
  • Missouri: Greater Kansas City Obesity Collaborative
  • Montana: Healthy By Design Quality Collaborative
  • California: San Diego Healthy Weight Collaborative
  • Washington: Lincoln County Health Department


Teams had to apply to participate, and have begun a variety of activities to help their local communities, states, tribes and other interested groups develop practical approaches to integrate primary care, public health, and communities in the fight against obesity.


Another round of at least 40 teams will be selected for Phase Two. Recruitment for this phase will begin in late September. Participants will benefit from access to national and regional obesity experts, as well as trained quality improvement experts. To learn more or check in to see if the Phase Two application has been posted, visit the Healthy Weight Collaborative website. If you have any questions about the Healthy Weight Collaborative please email:    


Let's Move! works with food retailers to expand access to food

First Lady Michelle Obama announced that major food retailers have committed to open or expand access in over 1,500 stores across the nation. In a report released back in 2009, the USDA identified food deserts across the nation. Food deserts are low-income neighborhoods with high concentrations of people who are far from grocery stores. Promoting balanced meals for children and families is an important part of the Let's Move initiative. Consequently, Let's Move has reached out to food retailers to help meet the needs of these food deserts by increasing access to affordable and nutritious food. Learn more. 





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Upcoming Events  


Physical Activity and Public Health Courses

September 13 - 21

Hilton Head, SC

The Physical Activity and Public Health (PAPH) Courses include an 8-day Postgraduate Course on Research Directions and Strategies and a 6-day Practitioner's Course on Community Interventions. Scholarships are available for both courses. Learn More. 



8th Annual World Wide Day of Play

September 24

Washington, D.C.

 world wide day of playNickelodeon will host an entire day of activities and games to encourage kids and their families to support active, healthy lifestyles.  From noon to 3 p.m., the network will suspend all programming to promote abandoning the TV for some physical activity. First Lady Michelle Obama will participate in the D.C. event, but you can hold a Day of Play in your own town! Compete in a dance-off, plan a field day, turn a PE class into a games day, or organize a bike-a-thon - anything to get out and get active! Learn more. 



End of the Million PALA Challenge

September 30

Launched last September, the challenge set a goal of getting 1,000,000 new PALA participants in the course of one year.  Every person counts, so encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to join in as well!  Those who earn their PALA will have access to a free, limited-edition e-certificate.  Award winners can fill in their name and date on the certificate before printing. Learn more. 



Announcement of 2010-2011 State Champion Schools

whistleOctober 1

Every year, the President's Challenge presents three schools from each state whose students excel in fitness testing with its exclusive State Champion Award.  Entries for 2010-2011 are now closed, but if your school is interested in applying for 2011-2012, fill out the online application or mail in the entry form (PDF) with your class composite record after your students complete testing in the upcoming school year.



Walk to School Day 2011

October 5whistle

"Hike it! Bike it! I like it!" Join kids and families from around the globe in walking or biking to school. Learn more. 



Food Day

October 24

Food DayCreated by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day is a time to come together across America to "push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way." The website offers a wide variety of resources, guides and webinars to help you bring Food Day to your community. 





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GET ACTIVE                                                


"Tri" a Triathlon!


Maybe you swim.  Maybe you bike.  Maybe you run.  But what about doing all three in a row?  Make this summer your time to train for a triathlon!


Preparing for a triathlon is the perfect way to mix up your workout fact that is the reason this event came to be. The first known race to combine the elements of swimming, biking, and running took place in 1974 in San Diego's Mission Bay. Organized by the San Diego Track Club, the event was intended as a relief from the boredom of their typical training.  John Collins participated in this first race, and then later went on to develop what may be the triathlon's most recognizable event: the Ironman. (Source:


Although the most popular format, which is used in the Olympics, consists of a 1.5K swim, a 40K bike ride, and a 10K run, triathlons vary in length and duration. You can use the triathlon calendar at to find the right race for you. 


To get started with training, you can utilize the official training plans of USA Triathlon, triathlon's national governing body associated with the United States Olympic Committee.


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"Tri" a Triathlon Part 3: Run


 The June, July, and August issues of Fitness is Fun will feature tips and resources to help you train for each portion of the race. This month, we race to the finish with running. 


Pace while you race

Although she didn't win, 23-year-old Julie Moss had one of the most memorable triathlon finishes in Ironman history. A college student studying exercise physiology, Moss entered the 1982 Ironman as research for her thesis. However, as she transitioned from the biking to running portion of the race, it looked as if she would be getting the first place prize out of her research project.


She started the final marathon nearly 20 minutes ahead of Kathleen McCartney, who was in second place at the time. But as night fell, exhausted and dehydrated, Moss lost coordination and repeatedly stumbled to the ground. With only yards to go, McCartney passed Moss for the victory. Still, on hands and knees, Moss crept to the finish line. With this dramatic finish, Moss went down in Ironman history as one of the most courageous and tenacious triathletes to complete the race. Read Moss's account of the 1982 Ironman or view video footage of the event.  



Julie Moss - Ironman 1982 
Julie Moss - Ironman 1982

In 1997, two more female triathletes finished in a fashion similar to Moss in a battle for fourth and fifth place. Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham both collapsed while neck-in-neck in sight of the finish line. Giving up on walking, Ingraham began a rapid crawl for the finish, passing Welch, who had previously been in the lead. Welch then followed suit, crawling to the finish just seconds after Ingraham. 



Sian Welch & Wendy Ingraham - The Crawl - 1997

Sian Welch & Wendy Ingraham - The Crawl - 1997


Although not all triathlons are as long and difficult as the Ironman, these Ironman struggles still demonstrate an important concept of any triathlon: pacing. Pacing yourself is important for any endurance event, but especially so for the total-body exertion involved in a triathlon.


Not slow, but steady wins the race

First of all, it is important to not overexert yourself during either the swim or bike portions of the race.  It is all too easy to be over-zealous at the beginning. Don't  look to set a personal record for either of these events; it could put you in energy debt when you begin your run. Trying to "win" these events could cost you in the long haul.


Use negative splits

In order to preserve your energy during the final portion of your race, it is best to use negative splits in order to pace yourself. Negative splits, as opposed to even or positive splits, involve starting at a slower pace, then gradually increasing you speed, so that you are racing your fastest at the end.  Read more about splitting.


Run efficiently

Often times, running is sort of like breathing - it's something we do without considering the mechanics. But taking the time to examine your run before your big race day could save you some precious energy and earn you prized cuts in time. Factors such as your stride rate, foot strike, arm motion and posture can all have a dramatic impact on the efficiency of your running. Read more about how to improve the effectiveness of your running technique.


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News and Research


Complete Streets legislation to improve road safety

A recently released safety report, Dangerous by Design 2011, revealed that 67 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the last 10 years took place on federal roads. Now, our senators are making an effort to not only improve this statistic, but improve the health of the nation as well. On May 24,12 senators introduced the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011. This act will not only improve safety, but also make physical activity more feasible by addressing the needs of users of all forms of transportation, making it safer and easier to walk, bike or take the bus. Learn more. 



Find out how much energy your activity really uses with the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities

Supported by Arizona State University and the National Cancer Institute, the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities identifies and updates metabolic equivalent (MET) data with published evidence that support the values. MET levels represent energy costs. One MET is defined as 1 kcal/kg/hour and is roughly equivalent to the energy cost of sitting quietly. The true energy cost of activities for an individual will vary from person to person, but the Compendium provides averages of MET intensities based on survey data. The site features 21 Activity Categories covering a range of activities including hobbies, occupations and day-to-day activities. Below is an example of the data presented under the category of "Running.".


compendium - running 


Lifting weights can lighten the burden of quitting smoking

Struggling to quit smoking? Resistance training might help. According to a new study from Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventative Medicine, those who completed a three-month resistance training program were twice as likely to quit the habit than smokers who didn't lift weights. Although previous studies have indicated exercise is successful as a smoking cessation aid, these studies tended to focus more on women and aerobics. The Miriam hospital study included both women and men, and the results showed that weight training helped to curve cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms, while helping to prevent the weight gain that sometimes accompanies quitting. However, this was a smaller-scale study, and more research would be needed before resistance training could be considered clinical treatment for smoking cessation. Read more or view the Miriam Hospital press release.



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Food for Thought


When the USDA published their 2010 Dietary Guidelines, they identified three selected messages for consumers to consider.

1.    Balancing calories

2.    Foods to increase

3.    Foods to decrease

Continuing this month, we will feature one of these messages in each FIF issue.

get nourished



Foods to decrease

Last month, we covered which foods to increase.  The other side of this balancing act is which foods to decrease. Calorically dense foods and foods high in fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar can throw a wrench in the nutritional value of your diet. Although we need caloric energy to survive, in excess it leads to weight gain and other associated health problems.


We now have more access to food than ever before. It surrounds us everywhere we go. Thus, whether you are dining in or dining out, it is important to educate yourself on how to make healthy choices. Here are some suggestions to help you navigate through our world of food.



  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals - and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Avoid buying sugary drinks.
  • Switch to low- or non-fat milk and other dairy products like yogurt and cottage cheese.
  • Try trans-fat free margarine instead of butter.
  • Lower fat versions of many processed meats are available. Look on the Nutrition Facts label to choose products with less fat and saturated fat.
  • In the cereal aisle, try to select a cereal with lower sugar content.
  • Instead of opting for high-calorie desserts, buy the ingredients you need for fruit dishes. Satisfy your sweet cravings with baked apples, pears or a fruit salad.
  • Replace white bread with whole grains and breads high in fiber.




  • As a beverage choice, ask for water or order fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, or other drinks without added sugars
  • In a restaurant, start your meal with a salad packed with veggies, to help control hunger and feel satisfied sooner.
  • Ask for salad dressing to be served on the side. Then use only as much as you want.
  • Instead of those that are fried or saut�ed, order steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes.


  • On long commutes or shopping trips, pack some fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, low-fat string cheese sticks, or a handful of unsalted nuts to help you avoid stopping for sweet or fatty snacks.

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News and Research


White House Chef shares recipes on NBC's Today Show

In her fight to encourage physical activity and prevent childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama talks the talk and walks the walk. And thanks to White House executive chef Cris Comerford, the First Lady and her family also eat the foods that promote a healthy lifestyle. Comerford made an appearance on the Today Show July 22 to share some of her delicious, but healthy and simple recipes.


white house chef 


Recipe: Chopped green salad with herb dressing

  • For salad:
  • 4 cups torn spinach and/or romaine
  • 1 small cucumber, seeded, if desired
  • 3 oz. broccoli florets, blanched and shocked*( 1 cup)
  • 3 oz. tender fresh green beans, blanched and shocked*( 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup frozen edamame, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups halved green grapes
  • 1 recipe Fresh Herb Dressing
  • Lemon wedges
  • For dressing:
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. snipped fresh Italian parsley, basil, or thyme
  • 2 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

For dressing:   In a screw-top jar combine orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, herb, mustard and pepper. Cover and shake well. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. Stir or shake well before using.


Raspberry vinaigrette: Prepare as above, except substitute raspberry vinegar, and add 1/4 cup mashed fresh raspberries.


For salad:   On a large cutting board, cut lettuce and cucumber into bite-size pieces. Add to a large salad bowl. Add broccoli, beans, edamame, and grapes. Toss gently to mix. Drizzle about 1/3 recipe fresh herb dressing over vegetables. Toss gently to coat mixture with dressing.  


Serve in small tumblers or cups with lemon wedges, if desired. Pass remaining dressing, if desired.


*Shocking vegetables: Bring a saucepan half filled with water to a boil. Carefully add vegetables and cook 3 minutes (do not wait for water to return to boil to start timing). Drain in colander and immediately add to a bowl of ice water to halt cooking. Drain well before using.


Before chopping lettuce, wash lettuce and remove excess water from leaves by patting dry with paper towels. Salad dressing clings better to dry lettuce.

Serving Size

Makes 6 servings


Recipe: Fruit pocket pies

  • 3/4 cup fresh raspberries and/or blueberries
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 Tbsp. smashed apple jam or apple butter
  • 12 slices soft whole grain white or soft whole wheat bread
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • For smashed apple jam
  • 4 lbs. of apples

For smashed apple jam:   Peel, core and slice 4 pounds apples. Place apples and 1/2 cup water in a 4 or 5-quart heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until very tender. Remove from heat. Mash apples with a potato masher or blend with an immersion blender. Return to heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes until the jam thickens and most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently. Transfer to a covered container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


For pies:   Preheat oven to 350�F. Wash berries and spread to dry on paper towels. Meanwhile, stir together sugar and cinnamon; set aside.  


For each pie, spoon 1 tablespoon of smashed apple jam in the center of a bread slice. Top with 3 to 4 berries and another slice of bread. Gently press the top slice around the fruit. Trim crusts from bread using a serrated knife. Using a fork, press the edges of the bread together to seal in the filling. Lightly brush the top slice of bread with some of the oil. Pick up each pie and, while holding in your hand, lightly brush the opposite side with oil. Place pies on an ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar.


Bake pies for 18 to 20 minutes or until bread is lightly toasted and bottoms are browned. Transfer to a cooling rack. Cool at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.


Select soft whole grain bread for these pies, and use the bread directly from the wrapper. The moistness of fresh bread works to seal the fruit inside.


You will know when the pies are done when the bottoms are evenly toasted. To check for browning, use a spatula to lift the pies and peek at the undersides.

Serving Size

Makes 6 servings



Menu calorie counts not always trustworthy

After comparing menu calorie counts from 269 food items at sit-down and fast-food restaurants, researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University had some good news and some bad news. Recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study's good news was that, on average, food items only measure 10 calories higher than restaurant listings - making the listings essentially accurate.


The bad news was 19 percent of the food items contained at least 100 calories more than listed, with one item containing 1,000 more calories than stated on the menu. Furthermore, sit-down restaurants were more likely to underestimate the calories in their "healthy" foods options like soups and salads, so those who purchase these foods in an attempt regulate their weight might be consuming more calories than they think. Surprisingly, pizza actually had the most consistent calories.


Overall, fast food menus tended to be more accurate than sit-down restaurant menus. Researchers attributed this to the fact that most fast food is portioned by factory machinery whereas sit-down restaurants usually rely on workers to prepare the food on-site. For more information, read the Tufts article or view more the JAMA news release. See the video below to learn more and see how researchers analyzed the menu items.


menu calorie counts  


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Question of the Month 


Both the Let's Move! Child Care initiative and Nickelodeon's World Wide Day of Play have acknowledged that excess TV time can interfere with kids getting enough physical activity. For the July Question of the Month, we wanted to know how you felt about TV.  Here's what your fellow readers had to say:

question of the month



How FIF readers balance watching TV  

and being physically active

Response 1




response 2Response 4response 4      




































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Next month, FIF will be filled with features for our Back to School issue! Sticking with our school spirited theme, we want to know how you feel about your school system's physical education programming. What do you like? What do you think should be improved? Click here to respond.




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Special Feature      


PC All-American of the Month, Kent Dose shares his story

In October 2008, I started having heart issues, and was diagnosed as "morbidly obese."  I had high blood pressure and was borderline diabetic. I weighed 352 pounds, and my doctor challenged me to lose 20 pounds by January 9, 2009. When I went in for my follow-up, I actually weighted 372 pounds, and that's when I determined it was time to change my lifestyle and way of thinking about my life and family and learn to respect myself.

I lost more than 55 pounds in two months, and was able to get off my high blood pressure medications. I joined 24-Hour Fitness and started working out regularly twice a week with a trainer for eight months. I have lost and maintained a total weight loss of 163 pounds.  I have adopted a healthy and active lifestyle and am able to do the things I once loved to do such as skiing, mountain biking, ATVing, camping, hiking, basketball and keeping up with my 5-year-old daughter.  I owe a lot of thanks to my family for their support as well as my trainer and 24-Hour Fitness for giving me the tools, support, inspiration and motivation to achieve and maintain my current lifestyle choice.

Today, I still work out periodically with a trainer just to keep myself "tuned up" and to learn new circuits, be challenged and push my current conditioning limits.  I work out six to seven times a week, between 65 and 90 minutes a visit.  On top of all that, I still have the energy to go swimming with my daughter, take my daughter to the park, go on walks, hikes and bike rides with the family, keep up on yard work and keep the cars washed and clean!  WOW, amazing how much energy I have!  It is hard for me to even consider sitting down these days!

I am proud to be a member of the Presidents Challenge, and hope that this inspires others like me to get up off the couch, and choose a healthier life style.



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Guest Column


 Straightening up misconceptions about posture

marjieWhen most people think of good posture, they think of shoulders pulled back, head held high, chin up and back flat. But in reality, it is more about trying to keep the natural curves of the back in balance when standing, sitting or lying down. When these curves are in their resting or neutral state, they experience the least amount of strain. Furthermore, good posture improves circulation and breathing, boosts the nervous system, enhances exercise performance, reduces risk of injury, and accelerates healing from injury.


The spinal column has many important functions, including providing support and protection of the spinal cord and nerve roots. It consists of small bones, the vertebrae, stacked one on top of the other like blocks, and discs that act as shock absorbers and allow the spine to move.  The cervical (neck) area of the spine supports the weight of your head, the thoracic (mid-back) area provides stability and support to the upper back, while the lumbar area of the spine relates to the lower back. Below the lumbar area is the sacrum, which connects the spine to the lower half of the body. At the bottom of the spine is the coccyx or tailbone.


When the vertebrae are misaligned, the natural curves in the spine are thrown out of place, creating stress and strain on muscles, joints and ligaments, which in turn, affects posture. Many myths and misconceptions exist about how to establish good posture.


Myth #1  If you want to correct poor posture, just straighten up.


Forcing a straight body position does nothing to address the root cause of poor posture and can bring about muscle tension and distortion of the spine. Eventually, this discomfort and fatigue causes most people to return to slouching.


Myth #2  Keeping your chin up and chest out constitutes great posture.


Pushing the chest out and tilting the head back to an exaggerated degree creates muscle tension and exaggerates the cervical and lumbar curves, potentially hindering circulation to these areas and pinching nerve roots.


Myth #3  Having good posture requires mental and physical effort.


The body strives to heal itself, and when posture is good, you look and feel better naturally. As new movement patterns are established, they become a habit, increasingly instinctive and natural, doing away with the need to have to remind yourself to adjust body position.


Myth #4  It's too late to change my posture.


Thankfully, it is never too late to change your posture for the better. The body is resilient and designed to move, so it adapts well to most activities. Study after study reveals that even people in their 80's and 90's can make significant changes in their posture, giving them greater mobility, independence, health and quality of life. If you are unaccustomed to being active, work toward conditioning the body gradually over time. Although muscular strength is vital for support and stability of the spinal column, relaxation of muscles is also important. When muscles are overworked, risk of injury increases, so allow time for rest and recovery.


Myth #5  You should always breathe through the belly.


Breathing through the belly has been regarded by some as the only way we should breathe. The truth is that different kinds of breathing are needed for different kinds of movement. Bellybreathing is appropriate where there is an elevated need for oxygen, such as when running, or where controlled breathing is needed, such as when playing the saxophone.  Otherwise, when at rest, inhalations should primarily expand the chest cavity and lengthen the back, only slightly moving the belly. Movement of the chest and back helps in maintaining normal rib cage size and shape, and fosters healthy circulation.


Myth #6  Good posture naturally comes about from being physically fit and active.


If a person has poor posture, underlying issues must be addressed. Correcting existing problems with posture involves obtaining a diagnosis of cause, and following through with recommended treatment. If postural problems are due to spinal dysfunction, early detection is important. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the chances of correcting the problem. Restoring range of motion, increasing flexibility and strengthening weakened muscles can be accomplished through specific exercises, consistent practice and patience. Muscle relaxation techniques, massage and stretching can be very useful if you are already experiencing pain and muscle tension.


Increasing activity levels on your own in an attempt to correct postural problems can result in injuries instead of improvement.  Far better to focus on good posture in its own right, or alongside increased activity where suggested as part of advised treatment. Once proper posture has been obtained, benefits from activity increase, helping to reach fitness goals and maintain results.


Marjie Gilliam is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist and freelance journalist, and has authored thousands of articles devoted to health and wellness. Each month we feature one of her articles. Check back next month to see what she has to say about seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as it relates to fitness, health and wellness.



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Featured Advocate of the Month


Go Running Mom 

Go Running Mom is a motivational, interactive blog for moms and women who run and want to take charge of their health and family's fitness. Go Running Mom was founded by Molly Ruby, a NETA Certified Group Exercise Instructor and dedicated mom of 3, who is passionate about running and family fitness.


Go Running MomSupporting both the President's Challenge and the Let's Move! initiative, Go Running Mom, challenges family members and community members (both local and online) to rise to new challenges by sponsoring the President's Challenge Go Running Mom Active Lifestyle Group, National Running Day Events, Go Running Kids Clubs, and Moms in Training (M.I.T.) groups.  Get Moving with Go Running Mom at: You can also follow Go Running Mom on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, you can also contact Molly Ruby at



We would like to extend a special thanks to all of the President's Challenge Advocates. Please visit the Advocates section to see how companies, organizations and groups are making a difference with the President's Challenge.


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We hope you enjoyed this month's issue of Fitness is Fun.

As we begin to create our next issue, we would like to hear from you!

We welcome questions or comments regarding current content and are open to suggestions for future topics we should address. Inspiring stories are also appreciated and could become features in upcoming issues. 

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The Fitness is Fun staff
The President's Challenge

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