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Everyone has a story - share yours today! We want to know how the President's Challenge has made a difference in your life, school, or community.


Tell us about your personal fitness and nutrition journey:  


What have you accomplished?  


What obstacles did you encounter? How did you overcome them?  


How do you stay motivated?  


What's next?


Let us recognize you for your achievements and help inspire others!  


Send your story along with a head-shot to:

Top MAY 2012

You have received the May 2012 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 physical activity, nutrition and fitness.

In this issue...

  • Get Informed: PCFSN and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) collaborate to create the Active Play PALA+ Challenge 
  • Get Informed: PCFSN Lifetime Achievement Award Winners announced
  • Get ActiveStay safe when exercising in the heat 
  • Get Nutritious: Find out about the eight ways PALA+ encourages you to eat healthy
  • Get Inspired: Guest columnist Marjie Gilliam shares suggestions for starting your own home gym
  • And more!


President's Challenge News


Kim, from the Biggest LoserBiggest Loser PALA+ Challenge  


Congratulations to Biggest Loser contestant Kim, winner of the PALA+ Biggest Loser Challenge, and a $30,000 gym for her community! Kim won by getting the most people to sign up to earn their PALA+. Check out the video below to see Kim get recognized on the show.


It's never too late to start your Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+). Like Kim, be an example for others that regular physical activity and healthy eating has its rewards!    


 The Biggest Loser PALA+ Challenge


Facebook poster fun continues

Check out the President's Challenge Facebook page to view our posters from the past. Each week, we are posting a new picture of one of our previous posters. See if you can guess the year, and then write your answer as a "comment." Can you figure out what year the poster below was used? Go to the facebook page now to find out the answer (now listed at the bottom of the "comments", and check in next week for our newest posting!

President's Challenge Poster 



ACTIVE PLAY PALA+ Challenge: Ready, set, game!

Amidst an interactive launch showcase, the PCFSN and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) unveiled their collaborative effort: the Active Play PALA+ Challenge. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, along with members of the PCFSN and representatives from the ESA all came together at a local Washington, D.C. school to introduce this new initiative.


Michelle Kwan interacts with students at the Active Gaming PALA+ Challenge Showcase
PCFSN Member Michelle Kwan interacts with students at the Active Gaming PALA+ Challenge Showcase.

Through this innovative partnership, gamers can earn their PALA+ by logging their active gaming time online. This challenge offers a fun and unique means of earning the PALA+ for both youth and adults alike.  


To help participants stay motivated, ESA member companies will incorporate PALA+ promotional features into some of their most popular active video games to educate video gamers on how they can use technology to get physically active and earn their PALA+.  All types of physical activity will be encouraged and healthy eating goals will also be incorporated.


Click on the links below to learn how to get active with your favorite game!

To learn more, read the PCFSN press release.  You can also watch the video below, in which PCFSN Executive Director Shellie Pfohl discusses using video games to get fit.  


Using Video Games to Get Fit 
Using Video Games to Get Fit


PCFSN Executive Director Shellie Pfohl shared a message about PALA+ in a recent edition of HHS HealthBeat. You can read the message, listen to the audio version, and share it with others through social media.

Schools across nation complete the President's Challenge Physical Fitness Test

For the first time this year, students at May River Montessori participated in the Physical Fitness Test. As the semester comes to a close, results are rolling in from schools that use the fitness test as part of their physical education curriculum.


 May River student participates in the Physical Fitness TestThe test consists of:

  • Curl-ups (or partial curl-ups)
  • Shuttle run
  • Endurance run/walk
  • Pull-ups (or right angle push-ups or flexed-arm hang)
  • V-sit reach (or sit and reach)

Students who complete the test are eligible to receive one of three rewards: Participant, National or Presidential Physical Fitness Award. Learn more about the Physical Fitness Test or read the article about physical education at May River Montessori.




PC Advocate hosts healthy running event for 7,000 kids

On April 27, PC Advocate ING KiDS ROCK enabled 7,000 kids in grades K-7 to become "marathon finishers" in a fun run to combat childhood obesity. In the weeks leading up to the official run, students participating in the program were encouraged to log the first 25.2 miles of the "marathon" on their own. Then they all came together at LP field, home of the Tennessee Titans, to finish up their remaining mile.


The run is supported by ING KiDS ROCK's charity, the ING Run For Something Better program. Read more about the event or visit the ING Run For Something Better Facebook page to view more photos of the run.

Young runner crosses his
A young runner crosses his "marathon" finish line at the ING KiDS ROCK event.


Water Bottle





President's Challenge Trek Water Bottle

Our Trek water bottle will help you stay hydrated and cool as temperatures begin to rise.  This 20-ounce, BPA-free aluminum sports bottle featuring a carabiner clip, screw top, and President's Challenge logo is a convenient and sustainable way to carry water while on the go.


PRICE: $8.95




For information on how to order the President's Challenge Trek Water Bottle or any of our other merchandise, visit our online shopping center.




Using a water bottle like the President's Challenge Trek Water Bottle can help make it easy to stay hydrated. This is especially important while being physically active in warmer temperatures. Check out the Get Active section to read other tips for staying safe when exercising in the heat.


Additionally, a new study shows that holding a cold bottle may improve exercise performance.  Read about the study in the Get Active section.


Having water handy can encourage more water consumption. The importance of drinking water instead of sugary drinks is the focus of this month's Get Nutritious section.




PCFSN and Other Government News


Lifetime Achievement Award winners announced during May 1 PCFSN Meeting

During the May 1 annual meeting of the PCFSN, Co-Chairs Drew Brees and Dominique Dawes announced the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award winners. The award honors individuals whose careers have greatly contributed to the advancement or promotion of physical activity, sport and nutrition nationwide. This year's recipients are:


Linn GoldbergLinn Goldberg, M.D.

After graduating from George Washington School of Medicine, Dr. Goldberg went on to become Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Health Promotion and Sports Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. He is a practicing physician and research scientist, with over 200 publications and 20 research grant awards. He developed the groundbreaking ATLAS and ATHENA programs, which utilize exercise and nutrition alternatives to prevent the abuse of alcohol and performance enhancing illicit drugs.




Thomas McKenzieThomas L. McKenzie, Ph.D.

Currently an emeritus professor at San Diego State University's School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, Dr. McKenzie is also the co-founder of SPARKfit, a President's Challenge Advocate.   SPARK is a nationally recognized research-based organization that works to provide teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students with the resources they need to improve health through physical activity. Dr. McKenzie has also co-authored over 170 publications and was the recipient of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) Hall of Fame Award in March 2012. He served on the PCFSN Science Board from 2006-2009.


Jacki SorensenJacki Sorenson

The originator of Aerobic Dancing - the complete fitness program that combines the health and toning benefits of jogging with the fun of dancing, Sorenson also developed StrongStep, which uses a step to increase lower-body resistance. For six years, she served as a clinician for The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (now PCFSN). Sorenson is a former elementary school teacher and is the author of two best-selling books, Aerobic Dancing and Jacki Sorensen's Aerobic Lifestyle Book. Additionally, she choreographed and produced several Aerobic Dancing records and three best-selling aerobic videos.



Charles SterlingCharles Sterling, Ed.D.

Sterling has served as the Executive Director of the renowned Cooper Institute for over 25 years.  Sterling is best known professionally as the founder of the widely-used FITNESSGRAM�, a health-related testing and feedback system for youth. Since it began, FITNESSGRAM� has become the test of choice in the U.S., being used in all 50 states and 20 countries. It is currently in 85,000 school districts and mandated for schools in California, Texas, Georgia, and New York. Over 14 million students were assessed in 2009.




Pat SummittPat Summitt

A native Tennessean, Summitt is the coach emeritus of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team, a team she has coached since 1974. Her coaching record makes her the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history of either a men's or women's team in any division., Summitt is the only coach in NCAA history, and only one of three college coaches ever, with 1,000 victories. She has written two books: Reach for the Summitt, which is part motivational book and part biography, and Raise the Roof about the Lady Vols' 1997-1998 undefeated and NCAA-championship winning season.

Nominations for next year's Lifetime Achievement Award winners must be received by February 1, 2013. Submit a nomination today. You can also check out the video below to view the rest of what occurred at the May 1 PCFSN meeting.


May 1, 2012 PCFSN Meeting  



In honor of Dr. McKenzie's award, we have designated SPARKFIT, a program of SPARK, as our Advocate of the Month. Check out the Get Inspired section to read more about SPARK and how SPARKfit is promoting health through fitness circuit programs.




It's not too late to take part in National Physical Fitness and Sports Month

In his May 1, 2012 proclamation, President Obama called upon Americans "to make daily physical activity, sports participation, and good nutrition a priority in their lives" as part of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. The PCFSN has been encouraging Americans to celebrate this month-long observance since 1983.


Download the toolkit from, so you can get involved today. You can also read the guest blog about National Physical Fitness and Sports Month from PCFSN Co-Chairs Drew Brees and Dominique Dawes, posted on the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans website.



Weight of the Nation: to win, we have to lose

The nation's leading research institutions have come together against one of America's biggest opponents: obesity. The Weight of the Nation campaign is an HBO documentary series broken into four parts:

  1. Consequences, which examines the scope of the obesity epidemic and the serious consequences associated with it
  2. Choices, which offers scientific advice about weight loss and its maintenance
  3. Children in Crisis, which documents how the obesity epidemic is hurting America's children
  4. Challenges, which looks at the underlying forces such as agriculture, economics, biology, food marketing, racial and socioeconomic disparities, physical inactivity, American food culture and the influence of the food and beverage industry.

In addition to watching the films, you can also connect to The Weight of the Nation to find out how the nation's obesity problem impacts you and what you can do to help.


HBO and the Institutes of Medicine (IOM), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) partnered with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente to put together this presentation. Visit the website to watch the films, learn more or find out how to take action.

HBO Documentary Films: The Weight of the Nation Trailer
HBO Documentary Films: The Weight of the Nation Trailer

Take a look at the full size version of the above infographic from the IOM to learn more about the complex, but conquerable issue of obesity. 



According to The Weight of the Nation, about 46 percent of adults' added sugar intake comes from sugary beverages, and sugary drinks are a major source of calories for children ages 2 to 18. Check out our Get Nutritious section to read about one of our 8 Ways to Eat Healthy: Drinking water instead of sugary drinks.



Upcoming Events and Deadlines

National Physical Fitness and Sports Month

May, Webinar May 29, 12 p.m. EDT

Although we can celebrate physical fitness and sports year round, May has been set aside as a special time to highlight the importance of fitness and sports.  Show your support by joining in for a Healthy People 2020 Who's Leading the Leading Health Indicators? Webinar: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. During this 45-minute event, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will present data on nutrition, physical activity, and obesity-with a focus on health disparities. They will also highlight a program that has had success promoting physical activity and healthy food choices in schools. Register Now. 


Exercise is Medicine Month


By celebrating National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, you can also be taking part in Exercise is Medicine month. Take the time recognize the benefits of exercise by reading the Exercise is Medicine Month fact sheet.



The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and teens be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day. The 60 minutes of activity can be done in smaller chunks of time over the course of the day. Need help finding ways to get active? We Can! provides everyday tips for getting active.



ACSM 59th Annual Meeting and 3rd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine

May 29 - June 2

San Francisco, CA

Learn more. 



APHA Midyear Meeting

June 26 - 28

Charlotte, NC

Learn more. 



IDEA World Fitness Convention

July 5 - 8

San Diego, CA

Learn more. 



APHA 140th Annual Meeting and Expo

October 27 - 31

San Francisco, CA

Learn more. 



National Strategic Summit Roadmap for Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Comparative Effectiveness Research

November 17 (Abstract submission deadline: Sept. 19)

Phoenix, AZ

This conference will be hosted by the American College of Sports Medicine. It will compare physical activity interventions with medical, pharmaceutical, surgical, and multi-level/multidisciplinary approaches. Abstract submission opens in June. Learn more. 






Safe Fun in the Sun


Sun graphicHow to prevent heat-related illness when exercising in the heat

Enjoying the outdoors in the warm summer months can be a great way to motivate yourself to exercise. However, the damaging effects of excessive heat and sun exposure can counteract the benefits of physical activity. Heat-related illnesses range from mild to life-threatening, so use the following tips from the Mayo Clinic to safely enjoy the outdoors this summer: 


Pay attention to warning signs.  

During hot-weather exercise, watch for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. If you ignore these symptoms, your condition can worsen, resulting in a medical emergency. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

If you develop any of these symptoms, you must lower your body temperature and get hydrated. Stop exercising immediately and get out of the heat. If possible, have someone stay with you who can help monitor your condition. Remove extra clothing or sports equipment. Drink fluids - water or a sports drink. If possible, fan your body or wet down your body with cool water. If you don't feel better within 30 minutes, contact your doctor. If you have signs of heatstroke, seek immediate medical help.


Watch the temperature.   

Pay attention to weather forecasts and heat alerts. Know what the temperature is expected to be for the duration of your planned outdoor activity.


Get acclimated.   

If you're used to exercising indoors or in cooler weather, take it easy at first when you exercise in the heat. As your body adapts to the heat over the course of one to two weeks, gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts.

Know your fitness level.   

If you're unfit or new to exercise, be extra cautious when working out in the heat. Your body may have a lower tolerance to the heat. Reduce your exercise intensity and take frequent breaks.

Drink plenty of fluids.   

Dehydration is a key factor in heat illness. Help your body sweat and cool down by staying well hydrated with water. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. If you plan to exercise intensely or for longer than one hour, consider a sports drink instead of water. Sports drinks can replace the sodium, chloride and potassium you lose through sweating. Avoid alcoholic drinks because they can actually promote fluid loss.


Dress appropriately.   

Lightweight, loose fitting clothing helps sweat evaporate and keeps you cooler. Avoid dark colors, which can absorb heat. If possible, wear a light-colored, wide-brimmed hat.

Avoid midday sun.   

Exercise in the morning or evening, when it's likely to be cooler outdoors. If possible, exercise in shady areas - or do a water workout in a pool.


Wear sunscreen.   

A sun burn decreases your body's ability to cool itself [and increases risk of skin cancer].


Have a backup plan.   

If you're concerned about the heat or humidity, stay indoors. Work out at the gym, walk laps inside the mall or climb stairs inside an air-conditioned building.


Understand your medical risks.   

Certain medical conditions or medications can increase your risk of a heat-related illness. If you plan to exercise in the heat, talk to your doctor about precautions.





Physical Activity News and Research 

Forecast for 2030 predicts 33% increase in obesity

A new report from the CDC estimates that U.S. obesity prevalence will be a whopping 42% by the year 2030. This would mean a 33 percent increase in obesity over the course of the next two decades. Among those who are obese, 11 percent are expected to be severely obese, which would more than double the 2010 level of 5 percent.


Obesity and its associated health issues have been cited as a major factor in America's expensive health care crisis. If the trends predicted in the CDC report come true, it would lead to a staggering $549.5 billion in health care costs. Because of this, interventions to reduce obesity prevalence would lead to substantial savings - not only in dollars, but more importantly, lives. Read the full report.



Just carrying a cold bottle of water can improve exercise

It has previously been shown that cooling vests or similar exercise apparatus could help slow the rate at which the core temperature rises, which delays fatigue and can improve performance. Now, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine have shown that the same effects can be achieved by simply carrying a cold thermos. In the study, the participants who held cooling devices in their hands, as opposed to those who did not, had greater improvements in blood pressure, heart rate, and waist size at the conclusion of their treadmill and exercise program. Read more. 




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8 Ways to Eat Healthy

The new version of the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, PALA+, features eight nutritional components in addition to the physical activity requirements. Each month we will feature one of these eight healthy eating goals:


Water IconA tip from We Can!: Drink water instead of sugary drinks

Instead of reaching for that soda, encourage your family to drink water. Try adding a slice of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon or add a splash of 100% juice to your glass of water for some added flavor! For some added variety, try unsweetened sparkling water.  


Regular soda and many other drinks are high in calories because they have a lot of added sugar. A 12-ounce can of regular soda can have about 10 teaspoons of sugar. Did you know that if you drank a regular soda every day for a year would you be consuming about 30 pounds of sugar?!


Regular soda may seem like an obvious example of a beverage that can affect weight control because of its high sugar and low nutrient content, but watch out for other kinds of drinks, such as lemonade, teas, coffee drinks, and sports drinks. They can also be very high in added sugar and calories. For a comprehensive list of sugar-sweetened beverages and their sugar and calorie content visit the We Can! website at


We Can! LogoAbout We Can!

Launched in 2005 to address the critical public health issue of childhood obesity,We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity & Nutrition)� is a national education program working through local communities to provide science-based, practical ways for families to help children 8 to 13 years maintain a healthy weight.


We Can! involves a collaboration among four institutes at the National Institutes of Health: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK); the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD); and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).


We Can! encourages families to make healthy lifestyle choices, including eating right, moving more and reducing screen time, by offering a variety of science-based resources and flexible programs that are easy to tailor for many different communities and audiences. Visit the We Can! homepage for more information, and look out for content from We Can! in future issues of Fitness is Fun.  
Nutrition News and Research 

Men who drink sugar-sweetened soda at higher risk for heart attack

A new study from Harvard indicates that men who drink even one sugar-sweetened beverage per day have an increased risk of heart attack compared to those who forego the sugary drinks. Two sugary drinks a day was linked to a 42 percent increase in risk, while three was associated with a 69 percent increase. Read more. 



Exercise may alter desire to eat

Recent studies indicate that responsiveness to food cues can vary after exercise. Brain research has yielded mixed results on the subject. In one study of young active women and men, responsiveness to food was significantly decreased after an hour of vigorous stationary biking.   However, another study found that for some overweight, sedentary people, exercise can have the opposite effect, increasing the desire to eat. Although the research is not entirely conclusive, researchers hope to be able to build upon these studies to learn more about the connection between exercise and neurological food responsiveness.  Read more.


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Guest Column 

by Marjie Gilliam 


How to bring the gym to you

Marjie Gilliam

Getting a good workout doesn't have to mean going to a gym, spending a lot of money, or taking a lot of your time. With increasingly hectic lifestyles and budget concerns, home gyms are now more popular than ever.  Convenience is cited as the number one reason people opt to work out at home. The ability to exercise in the privacy of your own home whenever the mood strikes you makes it an appealing choice. In addition, there is no time wasted driving back and forth to the health club or hassles with what to wear or how you look, no gym bag to pack and unpack, and no waiting for equipment or need to purchase gym attire. You control the comfort of your gym according to personal preferences such as temperature, ventilation, music played, lighting, and so on.  Without the normal distractions found in most gyms, your workouts can easily become more focused and productive. Some tips to consider for setting up a home gym:


Space availability: Depending on what you choose to buy, some pieces of exercise equipment can take up considerable space. Decide where you plan to set up your gym and make note of square feet and height of the area. If you don't have space for bulky equipment, you can still get a great workout at home.


Expense: Decide how much money you have to invest. My advice is to start with inexpensive basics (more on this later) until you are certain you are going to stick to your exercise program. Wait until you have at least 6 to 8 weeks of consistent training under your belt before you decide to expand your gym to include more expensive equipment. If you find that the items you want are way over your budget, consider buying them used.  More often than not, with a little patience you can find exactly what you are looking for at garage sales, in newspapers, buy/sell magazines, or simply by asking friends, neighbors or co-workers.


Health and fitness goals:  Developing a proper training program depends on individual differences, personal goals, physical limitations, as well as current level of fitness. Before you begin any exercise program, check with your doctor. If you have pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, recent injuries or joint problems (bad knees, arthritis, etc), you will want to make sure your exercise program and choice of equipment is appropriate for your needs. To achieve overall fitness, it is best to include both aerobic and anaerobic exercise in order to lose body fat while improving strength, flexibility and cardiorespiratory fitness. To last a lifetime, your program should be enjoyable enough so that you stick with it, yet challenging enough to see results. If in doubt, seek the help of a qualified fitness professional who is experienced in designing personalized exercise programs.


Equipment: For aerobic conditioning, treadmills, stairsteppers, and stationary bikes are good choices, allowing you to exercise year round regardless of the weather. However, they take up considerable space and can be quite costly, ranging in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Walking is a great aerobic activity that doesn't cost a cent and requires no equipment, and an excellent way to burn body fat while strengthening the heart and leg muscles. Enthusiasts will tell you that they have little difficulty finding ways to walk no matter what time of the year it is. If you have your heart set on getting your aerobic activity indoors and don't have room or money for cardio machines, there still are many options. Step benches are inexpensive, lightweight, and save space, and dozens of motivational exercise videos are available to lead you through a great workout, with or without a step bench. Using a jump rope is one of the very best ways to improve heart health, although this is not typically recommend for beginners or those with joint problems, as it can be very intense. Things to consider when buying exercise machines include durability, safety, comfort, adjustability (incline, resistance, seat height, etc.), smooth, quiet operation, warranty, service and parts availability. 


The President Challenge encourages both aerobic conditioning and anaerobic (resistance/strength) training as part of a complete fitness package. When equipping your gym for strength training exercise, there are many options available, including: 


Free weights: Free weights include dumbbells, barbells and weight plates that provide non-restrictive joint movement during exercise. Besides giving you more options for exercise, free weights last forever with little maintenance, don't take up much floor space and are inexpensive. Dumbbells come in increments from 1 lb to over 100 pounds. The weight used is determined by the exercise performed.


Exercise bench: Although not a necessity, having a weight bench will afford you more exercise options, and makes certain exercises easier to do.  When shopping for a bench, look for stability above comfort. Unless you plan on fastening it to the floor, steer clear of lightweight benches that may tip over. Other features include adjustable barbell racks, and the ability to incline and/or decline.


Ankle weights: Ankle weights are used primarily for working the lower body, although it is possible to get an effective workout without them by doing body weight exercises (lunges, squats and calf raises). If you simply want to add variety to your workouts or if you cannot do body weight exercises, these are a good choice.


Hand/wrist weights: If you are restricted to doing light weight resistance training, or have difficulty grasping and/or holding on to objects, hand and/or wrist weights are ideal. If possible, try to purchase ones that are adjustable, allowing you to add weight in small increments as you are able.


Resistance tubing/bands:  Exercise bands/tubing can be used for both upper and lower body workouts, as well as to increase flexibility. They are lightweight and easy to store, making them a great choice for traveling. Although strength gains can be achieved using resistance bands, there are a few drawbacks.  The amount of resistance is not measurable with bands, making it difficult to gauge the intensity of your workout. The resistance generated with bands is not like most other exercise equipment. With bands, the greatest amount of resistance is felt at the end of the movement when it is fully stretched, while the body normally generates the most force at the start of the movement.


Multi-station gyms/exercise machines: These usually provide basic exercises for all the major muscle groups. Beginners usually prefer machines over free weights because the machine helps keep the body in the proper position during exercise.  As you become more familiar with weight training, you will probably want to supplement your workouts with free weights. Drawbacks: Exercise machines are the most expensive way to equip your home gym and also take up the most space. In addition, because of their weight, they are hard to position and re-position, and it can be difficult to change from one exercise to another. Making numerous adjustments wastes time and can become frustrating.  When choosing a multi-station gym, check for solid construction. Steer clear of machines that appear wobbly, are noisy or don't operate smoothly. To make the transition between exercises easier, look for machines whose resistance is supplied by stacks of weight plates.


Exercise mat:  If you plan on doing floor exercises, a dense foam mat will cushion your body during the workout. The mat you choose should be comfortable, yet provide support for your spine, so look for one that is firm enough to hold your body weight without sinking into it. It should be durable, easy to transport and keep clean.


Before buying

Before you buy anything, try to pay a visit to a local gym and try out the different types of machines. Not only will this help give you get a better idea which type of equipment you will most likely use, but it will allow you to compare the quality of higher priced machines and the ones sold in most retail stores.


If this is not possible, talk to others who have purchased the type of exercise equipment you are interested in.  Always avoid items promising "fast and easy results", or any other claims which appear to good to be true, and be sure to try out the equipment before making your final decision.


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.    



Share Your Story   


PC Participant Marie describes how exercise got her back on track

MarieI have always liked and played sports, except perhaps the competitive kind. When I was a teenager I played competitive tennis, and it was a lot of pressure. I thought about quitting several times. But I stuck with it, and thanks to that determination I was able to attend college on an athletic scholarship.


After college, I started working, and I lost 2 jobs during the economic crisis. I became very sick as a result of the stress and feeling of worthlessness that came along with the hard times. I remember the doctor telling me, "Exercise - it will help you," and me thinking, "How can I exercise when I am sick with no energy and while looking 24/7 for a job?"


But I tried, got hooked on plugging my results in the President's Challenge website, and I got better. Today, I am back at work and have a bright future in front of me. I am also a Gold Presidential Champion! I work long hours but always make sure to wake up early enough to go run with my rescue dog before work. After that, I arrive at the office fired up and ready to go!


Thank you, [President's Challenge], for your efforts towards a healthy and strong nation. If a busy First Lady can be strong and healthy, there is no reason I, or any busy person, can't be too!



We want to know how the President's Challenge has made a difference in your life, community, or school. Tell us about your personal fitness and nutrition journey. What have you accomplished? What obstacles did you encounter? How did you overcome them? How do you stay motivated? What's next? Let us recognize you for your achievements and help inspire others!  Send your story along with a head-shot to




 Advocate of the Month


SPARK Programs

SPARKprogramsSPARKfit is a collaborative effort of The SPARK Programs and the President's Challenge Programs. SPARKfit is designed for High School Physical Education (PE), Middle School PE, and After School programs working toward maximizing the benefits of fitness circuit programs.


The educators and fitness experts at SPARK have worked with the President's Challenge Program to integrate the President's Challenge Fitness Test and PALA+ into this online program. With a focus on nutrition and goal setting, SPARKfit links activity leaders to the President's Challenge Program and utilizes these powerful tools in a meaningful way to teach students how to manage their own personal wellness. Educators and activity leaders will find everything they need to implement a successful Fitness Lab program including: 

  • Fitness and nutrition focused lessons
  • Circuit training videos with printable station cards
  • Goal setting tools and more

SPARKfit (previously "Fitness Lab") is a component of (previously is a special, password-protected website where educators can access a library of effective digital tools to support their program. To learn more about and access a free trial, visit



SPARK is a research-based organization that disseminates evidence-based Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs to teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students.


Each SPARK program strives to foster environmental and behavioral change by providing a coordinated package of highly active curriculum, on-site teacher training, extensive follow-up support, and content-matched PE equipment.


Since 1989, SPARK has provided curriculum materials, teacher training, and consultation to over 100,000 teachers and youth leaders, representing many thousands of schools, organizations, and agencies worldwide.


To learn more about SPARK visit


Our Advocates help to increase participation in the President's Challenge and encourage people to lead active, healthy lives. Learn more. 

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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. 

E-mail us at


The Fitness is Fun staff
The President's Challenge