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Getting Up to Speed For Physical Fitness and Sports Month

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As the temperature gets warmer, it’s time to get active – and there’s no better time to do it than National Sports and Fitness Month. This May, Americans are reminded to get up, get out and get active during this month of awareness and education. The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award is just one of many ways you can motivate yourself to take steps toward a healthy lifestyle. With an award at the end, why not take the PALA+ challenge yourself?

Here’s How:

Before you start, you should know that the PALA+ program is for anyone from the very young to the very old. It was designed by government health experts to help people who want to improve their health through positive eating and activity changes. It’s appropriate for vegetarians, vegans, and others with dietary restrictions as well.

Sign up for the program here to get officially registered with the President’s Challenge. You can sign up as an individual or start a challenge for a small group of friends and coworkers. Sometimes making it a group effort can help you all support one another and get along further. After you create your account, you will pick a challenge for each week and then track your progress.

There are different goals for every age group. For people who are 18 years old and older, the goal for physical activity is 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week for six out of the eight weeks of the challenge. If you’d rather not set aside time to go to the gym or do a huge workout, then you can track at least 8,500 steps per day.

In addition, adults have a healthy eating goal each week. There are eight sequential goals that you can try. Since you only focus on one goal per week, you’re more likely to stick with it and make lasting positive changes. At the end of six weeks, you’ll see an improvement in your habits as well as how well you feel.

For kids and teens, between six and seventeen years of age, the goals are similar. There are exercise and healthy eating goals each week. The PALA+ program recommends that kids and teens get active at least an hour per day, for five days a week. If your kid or teen is a fan of pedometers, they should shoot for 12,000 steps per day. Kids and teens will select from healthy eating goals with a new goal each week, just like adults.

If you’re cautious about signing up for a challenge because you’re afraid you’ll get bored with physical activity – never fear! There are literally dozens of activities that can help you meet your daily goal. The official PALA+ site also lists some of the activities that can help you fit in extra exercise throughout the week. Try walking with a friend during your lunch break instead of going to a restaurant. Commit to a big weekend project like cleaning out your garage or attic in order to increase your activity level. Simply parking at the furthest corner of the parking lot will also help you get more steps in and increase your activity level.

Eating healthier with the challenge can be easy too. You don’t need to overhaul your diet all at once. Start by making at least half of your plate fruits and vegetables at each meal. Seek out whole grain products, instead of those made with white flour. Substitute water for your favorite sugary beverages, and pay attention to portion size (especially when you eat out at restaurants).

In addition to the eating and exercise suggestions, the PALA+ challenge also encourages you to cut down on your screen time as a family or in the workplace. It’s hard to find time to get inactivity or to make healthy meals at home if you are glued to the television or computer. Both kids and adults should be more mindful of their screen time usage. Start by keeping the TV off during mealtimes, and moving any television sets out of the bedroom into the family living space. Try setting a timer for 20 to 30 minutes when you use the computer, and then do some jumping jacks before getting back on. This will make it easy to get in more steps and break up long blocks of screen time.

Signing up for the PALA+ challenge can be a springboard to better health. Get involved now – and encourage other people in your life to do it too. Whether you’re in it for the Presidential Award or for the long-lasting health habits, it’s worth it to #MoveInMay!