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Moving Urged For The Health Of It

Healthy Lifestyles Conference highlights need for exercise.

April 31, 2011

By WILLIAM SMITH wsmith@thehawkeye.com

Toni Yancey had some sobering statistics for the crowd of health-care professionals gathered at the fifth annual Healthy Lifestyles Conference at Comfort Suites Wednesday morning.

The Department of Health Services professor at the UCLA School of Public Health and co-director of the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity said most people aren't getting as much exercise as they think they are.

Fifty percent of adults say they get 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day, five days a week. In reality, they only get about five minutes day.

It's even worse for elementary school-age children and teenagers, who should get 60 minutes of daily exercise, five days a week. Fewer than 50 percent of children actually get that much, and less than 10 percent of teenagers get that much exercise. "We have a huge problem," Yancey said. "We can move through society without even realizing how out of shape we've gotten."

For children, finding time to exercise mostly is a matter of motivation, but for adults, finding that time to exercise can almost be impossible. That's why Yancey is leading a push to exercise during the workday, if only for 10 minutes at a time. Her second book, "Instant Recess: How to Build a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time," lays out the formula for how that can be done.

"This is a good way to get our population moving," Yancey said. "The book has really gotten some traction, and there are a lot of people making this happen." But an idea is only as good as its implementation. Shortly after starting her speech, Yancey put the idea into action by getting everyone off their feet for a 10-minute recess that consisted of a Native American pow-wow dance. Instead of circling during the dance, the grinning attendees stood in place while they flailed their arms about. They did a similar exercise using basketball motions about an hour later.

"You don't want to put pressure on your knees. We just want to wake things up," Yancey said while leading the dance. "Just listen to the drums."

Yancey said the 10-minute recess plan has proven extremely popular in schools, churches and businesses in California, partially because it relies so much on peer pressure. Nobody wants to stand up in the middle of a board room meeting and start jumping around by themselves.

"Most people participate because it's social," she said. "If I can do it, you can do it. That kind of thing."

Yancey offered several ideas to improve physical activity in the workplace, including restricting access to immediate parking lots and having automobile-free zones. She also suggested school buses could stop half-a-mile away from the school, which would force the children to walk.

One of the most important aspects in getting children active is making recess fun again. Yancey even suggested students lead 10-minute workout sessions in the classroom, which would give them more ownership over the activity.

"A guy said to me that recess is the best marketing tool. It has the best reputation of any class in school," she said.

Yancey was one of several speakers who addressed more than 100 nurses, health and physical education teachers and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) members at the conference. Attendees broke into groups later in the day to get more hands-on instruction with the speakers before closing out the conference with keynote and motivational speaker Kevin Eikenberry.

The annual event is organized by the Southeast Iowa Regional Coalition for Lifestyle Enhancement, a coalition of health care professionals from Des Moines, Lee, Henry and Van Buren counties.