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MayaMohan2 Posted by:
Maya Mohan, Department of Public Health

Maya is the Physical Activity Coordinator for DPH

If there was ever a time to talk about being active (how to be; where to be; how much to be; why to be; who should be, etc.), this is certainly the month to do it.  The month of May is chock full of national health observances: American Stroke Month, National Arthritis Awareness Month, National Blood Pressure Education Month, National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, Older Americans Month, Mental Health Month, National Physical Fitness Month, and National Bike Month– just to name a few

If a month sounds like too long of a commitment for you to observe anything, then perhaps some of these week-long observances may be more your speed:   May 1-7 is National Physical Education and Sports Week, May 2-8 is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week and May 17-21 is Bay State Bike Week.

If you’re an even bigger commitment-phobe than that and can really only tolerate a day-long activity, check out these notable dates in the month of May:  May 5 is MA Walk and Bicycle to School Day; May 10 is National Women’s Check-up Day; May 19 is National Employee Health and Fitness Day, May 21 is Bike to Work Day, and May 26 is National Senior Health and Fitness Day

Now, while the words “physical activity” or “fitness” may be not be in some of these observances I’ve mentioned, those words do play a role. In other words – being active on a regular basis can help reduce the chance of having a stroke or of developing arthritis, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, anxiety or depression.  If you struggle with any of these ailments, being active can help with recovery or management of those conditions and contribute to an overall better quality of life.  (There are also quite a few other benefits that being regularly active affords a person – but those are celebrated in other months, so we don’t need to get into those just now!) 

For all these health observances and the important role that being active plays in their prevention, management and/or treatment, I don’t think it was a coincidence that May 3rd marked the launch of the National Physical Activity Plan. 

The vision of this first-ever National Physical Activity Plan is that “One day, all Americans will be physically active and they will live, work and play in environments that facilitate regular physical activity.”  The plan’s success relies on the leadership, participation and engagement of both public and private sector partners and it describes sector-specific policies, programs and initiatives that will increase activity among all segments of the American population.  Notably, the plan contends that the sectors of business/industry, education, health care, mass media, parks/recreation/fitness/sports, public health, transportation/land use/community design, and volunteer/non-profit all have a role in reaching that ultimate vision and in creating “a national culture that supports physically active lifestyles… to improve health, prevent disease and disability and enhance quality of life.”  If you want to know exactly what these sectors can do to help reach that vision, check out the Plan’s strategies and tactics for each sector here.  (Scroll through them – it’s really interesting!) 

It’s a nice novelty to have months, weeks or even days to mark health observances and to remind us of the importance of prevention (being active, in this case).  However, we can’t rest there.  Social, cultural and physical environments that support our ability to active where we live, work and play (and over our whole lifespan, no less!) must exist before we can begin expecting our fellow Americans to successfully reach recommended amounts of activity in order to become and stay healthy.   It may sound daunting, but I do think that this plan creates a unique opportunity for us to engage a whole host of partners to help us get there. 

Want to get involved?  Sign up here today!  And, if you or your community is celebrating one of these health observances, we would love to hear about it! 

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