Community group issues island-wide health and fitness challenge

After more than two years of working to help islanders get healthy and stay well, Shape Up Vashon (SUV) is issuing an island-wide fitness and health challenge.

Beginning no later than May 10, islanders of all ages are encouraged to participate for eight weeks in the President’s Challenge, a program of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition that aims to help people increase their physical activity and improve their fitness.

This is the fourth challenge SUV has sponsored and is the most ambitious one so far, said Dr. Kathleen Davis, who is one of SUV’s founding members.

“Since they have been successful, we would like to move to this step — to challenge the whole island,” she said.

The President’s Challenge is available online and includes activities for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA), for people who want to make physical activity and healthy eating part of their lives, and the Presidential Champions challenge, for people who are already active but want to be more so.

If participating in the PALA challenge, people will pledge to exercise a half-hour a day five days a week for six weeks out of eight. They will also pledge to add one healthy eating goal each week from a list of eight choices. This program is open to anyone age 6 and older.

For people who already exercise five days a week, the President’s Champion challenge may be the most appropriate and encourages even more activity.

“These are things that everybody should do for their health,” said Davis, who is a retired primary care physician and volunteers her time to work on issues related to public health.

Regular exercise has many benefits, she noted, including that it gives people more energy, improves depression, sleep problems and cardiovascular health and can help strengthen bones.

Participants can take part in the challenge in groups of two to eight people or can do it on their own and must log their progress on the President’s Challenge website. With this information, Davis said, SUV will be able to publicize how many President’s Awards Vashon has won and how many calories people burned earning those awards.

In July, there will be a community celebration, and SUV will award prizes to the top teams.

For Davis, islanders embarking on this challenge together makes sense.

“The community is very focused on the environment, and the environment and health go together,” she said. “This could be a benchmark for health in the same way we are proud of being environmentally sensitive.”

Davis noted that she has participated in the President’s Challenge and received an award. It is easy to put off exercise, she said, but committing to a program like this can be very motivating.

“When you pledge to do the President’s Challenge, you are making a pledge to yourself.”

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