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Let “Let’s Move!” Spur You Into Action
By Maura Keller

Go outside on a warm, sunny afternoon and what do you hear? Birds chirping? The sounds of children playing? Odds are these days you’ll mostly hear the birds, not the children. As kids spend more time in front of television and computer screens, their physical activity levels have decreased while their body weights have increased.

Obesity is an epidemic in the United States, especially among young people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children who are overweight has tripled in the last three decades. The increase is in children and adolescents of all age, race, and gender groups.

First Lady Michelle Obama recognizes that obesity in children and adolescents is a critical issue with many health and social consequences that often continue into adulthood. As a result, she has initiated Let’s Move! a prevention program that strives to educate parents and children about eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise while also improving access to healthy food options for all demographics and throughout the nation’s schools.

“The Let’s Move! campaign is a diet order prescription for weight loss that has been written at the government level rather than on a prescription pad in a physician’s office,” says Sheryl Lozicki, RD, MBA. “The resources and level of commitment Michelle Obama is able to bring forth to support this initiative will give it a lot more depth and be far more reaching than any one or two healthcare practitioners can provide to a family.”

Indeed, as Debbie Benner, MA, RD, vice president of clinical support at DaVita, explains, “The Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity is extremely positive for our country, communities, and families. This will raise the awareness and focus of every individual toward a healthier lifestyle.”

She continues, “The campaign includes increasing awareness, emphasizing positive aspects of eating healthier, and sets the focus of our country to positively impact our culture today and for tomorrow. Ultimately, this campaign will save in our healthcare costs in the future, and it can unite the country in a common cause that will benefit us forever.”

In February, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) officially commended the Obama administration for this initiative to help solve the nation’s childhood obesity problem.

“Obesity is a complicated problem and will need comprehensive programs and widespread support to effectively address the problem for the long term,” Benner says. “Registered dietitians are prepared to provide their expertise in support of this campaign. RDs can raise awareness in their daily interactions with their own families, coworkers, and within their own communities.”

Lori D’Amato, MS, RD, CDN, a dietitian at Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right, a weight management program for children, also recommends RDs support Obama’s vision by going out and being part of the actual training in schools and community centers and pushing for changes to the school lunch program. “For those RDs who do not work with children on a daily basis, educate patients on the campaign and provide Web site information for them to review and spread the word,” she says.

When D’Amato encourages the recommended amount of exercise, most kids and parents can’t believe it. “Many do not realize how important it is to be active on a daily basis,” she says. “This campaign will absolutely bring a major emphasis on the importance of exercise and hopefully we will be seeing kids playing outside again.”

Dietitians appreciate that the Let’s Move! campaign is built on four pillars encouraging a healthy way of living for the duration of a child’s life. Each pillar represents a positive habit that strengthens a child’s foundation for improved lifestyle choices. 

“Everybody in the household will benefit from improved nutrition when a parent makes more knowledgeable food selections and is able to successfully maximize their food dollars,” Lozicki says. “And two of the pillars are devoted to the school environment, where children spend one third of their day. These pillars are going to drive a long-term, one-two punch. Research has shown that improved nutrition and exercise at school results in better attention span, higher performance in math and reading, and greater levels of creative problem solving. The Let’s Move! initiative will indirectly make kids smarter, and that’s a good investment in everyone’s future.”

— Maura Keller is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.