Run, Walk, Move… Everybody, Everywhere

I was out this morning on a nice, long trail run.  No agenda, no plan, no structure… just running. One of the nice things about this time of year, post racing season, is the opportunity for a small stretch of time to just get out and do what you feel like doing on any given day. Yoga. Pilates. Trail running.  Stretch, strength and sauna at the gym – all are fair game and all play an important role in keeping the body rejuvenated and the mind from getting bored or overwhelmed as it may if we don’t give ourselves some downtime. I got an early start from my favorite trailhead in the Santa Monica Mountains and had the trails to myself for a good two miles prior to seeing anyone out there. Given that it was an absolutely beautiful day, it would have been odd if I didn’t see anyone for the whole duration of my run, and shorty after the 30 minute mark, I began to see mountain bikers and a few runners here and there, which is common on a lovely weekend morning. I heard footsteps, lots of footsteps, approaching from behind and thought they must be coming from a group of some serious runners as they neared me. And they were… but check this out- they were students, young students, a group of 6, likely no older than teens, all wearing shirts indicating they were part of Students Run LA, whose mission is, per their site, to “challenge at-risk secondary students to experience the benefits of goal-setting, character development, adult mentoring and improved health by providing them with a truly life-changing experience: The training for and completion of the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon.” Love, love love that! What an incredibly motivating thing to witness, as if there was any lack of motivation to begin with! I kept running, seeing more and more people out on the trails, from all walks of life, young and old, hiking, running, biking, all of it, and it was such a beautiful reminder of how we all can make the choice to just get out there and move. But how many of us are actually getting out there? Not enough. A survey published by the CDC (1) revealed that only 20.6 percent of people met the total recommended amounts of exercise — about 23 percent of all surveyed men and 18 percent of surveyed women. People most likely to exercise were between the ages of 18 and 24 (almost 31 percent of exercisers). In some cases, it’s a matter of not having access to safe exercise options. In Atlanta, only about one in five homes have parks within a half-mile, and about the same number have a fitness or recreation center within that distance (2). And other areas, sometimes referred to as ‘gym deserts’ (3), places throughout the country with no access to parks, trails, even sidewalks don’t lend themselves to simply being able to get out there and move, but the good news is that change is occurring. Organizations such as Urban Perform which began because residents in Atlanta’s English Avenue asked for a safe place to exercise. By making exercise accessible and affordable, we are fighting obesity in underserved neighborhoods, primarily on the West Side of Atlanta. Or Healthworks, a nonprofit fitness center in Boston, which funded by revenues from the five for-profit Healthworks fitness centers in the Boston area. Those memberships cost about three times as much. But this nonprofit branch has the same type of equipment and classes, from yoga to Pilates to something called the Bodylicious Bootcamp. Lots of work remains to be done, of course, but seeing this ray of hope, knowing that there are people out there trying to do their part to make change is nothing less than inspiring. What can you do? Reach out to your kids’ schools to ask for a brainstorming session with other parents and teachers to create solutions practical for where you live.    Raise funds to rehabilitate an abandoned building and stock it with inexpensive fitness equipment like bands and balls and volunteer to take turns supervising  with fellow neighbors.   Approach the local for -profit fitness centers to see if they are willing to contribute. It all starts with an ask, an idea and a dream. Let’s do this! All of us- we need to move, wherever we are and if we can’t just get out there and do it, we need to play a role in creating a place where we can! (1) “CDC: 80 Percent of American Adults Don’t Get Recommended Exercise.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2016 (2) Associated Press Health & Medical Staff. “Lack of Places to Play and Exercise a Factor in Childhood Obesity Epidemic.” N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2016 (3) By Gracie Bonds Staples – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Adding a Safe Place to Exercise to ‘so-called’ Gym Deserts.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2016.