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President's Plea For Better Fitness

by Eric Harr - Syndicated Columnist

Last Saturday, President Bush ran on his 1,600-acre ranch in Crawford Texas, between phone calls from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell about Israeli tanks smashing into Yasir Arafat's compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He ran on Air Force One on his way to Mexico in April, on a treadmill installed in the jet's conference room. Mr. Bush ran on the flight back to Washington from El Salvador, too.

And now he's imploring all Americans to run-for their lives, literally.

On June 20, 2002, Mr. Bush launched a new national initiative, called Healthier Us, designed to help the American people live longer, healthier, better lives.

"Better health is an individual responsibility, and it is an important national goal," said The President.

"When America and Americans are healthier, our whole society benefits. And it's not all that difficult to do. When it comes to your health, even little steps can make a big difference. The evidence is clear, a healthier America is a stronger America."

Mr. Bush seems determined to be the poster president for fitness. His personal best is a 6:45-mile-per-mile pace for three miles, a record he set last Thanksgiving at Camp David-and as a professional triathlete, I'm here to tell you: that is not hanging around! Our President is a strong runner. We should follow his good example.

There are four essential guideposts in the President's new initiative:

Physical Fitness - be physically active every day, learning how to make regular physical activity a routine part of your life.

Prevention - get preventive screenings to protect yourself from illnesses you can prevent.

Nutrition - eat healthily as a lifestyle decision, not as a fad; become aware of expert advice on good eating.

Lifestyle Habits - eliminate smoking and drugs and cutting down on drinking excessively.

Here's how to put these important principles into action in your life:

First, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report released in January, 2002 confirms that virtually all people can benefit from regular physical activity. According to White House data on American Fitness, over 130 million American adults don't get enough physical activity; more than 75 million aren't active at all. In addition, our children are getting less than one hour's worth of exercise a week.

While these numbers are bleak, the good news is that any physical activity will help you lead a healthier, happier life.

"Exercise kind of helps me deal with the stress a little better," says The President. "After I get a good run in, I even like the press corps a lot better."

You needn't run up the side of a mountain like a madperson for two hours to achieve better health and fitness. In fact, I believe that kind of all-or-nothing outlook on exercise makes it so foreboding that it prevents most people from getting off the couch and out the door. In the President's initiative, he refers to "simple solutions": taking a 30-minute walk every morning or even playing with your children in the backyard. Physical activity need not be distinct, regimented workouts.

Action Item: Take an objective look at your daily life-are there places in which you can insert more physical activity? Look at the smaller things: How about riding your bike to the video store or taking the stairs at work? Spend a few moments jotting down some ideas.

Schedule at least four or five 30-minute "activity blocks" each week for your physical health-try to incorporate your entire family; it'll make everyone healthier and bring you closer together. Now write those into your daily planner and be specific in terms of when, where and with whom will you be conducting these activity blocks.

It's not just about moving your body, you've got to be smart about it. Monitor your intensity level with a heart rate monitor to ensure that you're not over, or under, doing it. Polar makes the best heart rate monitors in the world.

Second, commit to eating a more nutritious diet. You've likely heard the adage: "eat more fruits and vegetables each day." While getting in your five servings a day is indeed great advice, sometimes it's just not practical. There are days when I eat five servings of Ben & Jerry's a day, but not vegetables!

Action Item: Look into buying a juice extractor for your family. This device will provide you with all the fruit and vegetable nutrients you need each day, simply and easily, making a juicer potentially one of the best investments you can make in your nutrition.

The third recommendation of The President's fitness initiative is to get preventative screenings.

"These are simple tests that can save your life," Mr. Bush says.

Such screenings are available through your physician and they can reveal if you're prone to developing certain diseases, such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease. By taking action early on the information provided from such tests, you can prevent potentially life-threatening ailments. Action Item: If you haven't had a physical check-up, complete with blood work and preventative screenings, in the last six months, and then schedule an appointment this week.

The President's final recommendation is to cut out drugs, excessive drinking and tobacco. Did you know that tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in America? And not just for smokers: over 60,000 non-smokers die every year from second-hand smoke. Sixty-thousand. Every year. And while a nice glass of wine every day or two can actually promote good health, experts agree that any more than that is too much.

"Our message is clear: Avoiding tobacco, drugs and excessive alcohol can save your life," says The President.

It's clear our President practices what he preaches in terms of health, fitness, and living well-and I believe we should follow his lead and his call to live better lives.

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