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Get Informed!
Get Active!
Get Nutritious!
Get Inspired!
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Featured Participant
of the Month:
Nan Little!
Nan Little
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is impressive, but doing so at age 65 with Parkinson's disease is extraordinary - and that's exactly what Nan did. Read about how she has used physical activity to conquer mountains and counter her illness in the Get Inspired section.



About Nan



Seattle, WA



Physical Activities:  


and Fly Fishing


"Cycling diminishes my Parkinson's symptoms and enables me to be part of a wonderful group of people who think positively. It keeps my body fit and energized. Additionally, time spent on rivers fly-fishing keeps my spirit and soul fit and energized."


You have received the November 2011 issue of Fitness is Fun, the official e-mail distribution of the President's Challenge. These monthly e-mails will keep you updated on our programs, activities of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) and other current information pertaining to physical activity, nutrition and fitness.

In this issue...

  • Get Informed: New educator booklet released, order or download a free copy today
  • Get Informed: First Lady encourages kids to break world record for jumping jacks

  • Get Active: Learn about spin classes, a new addition to the PC Physical Activity Tracker
  • Get Nutritious: Discover simple suggestions and substitutions to make this Thanksgiving healthier
  • Get Inspired: Guest columnist Marjie Gilliam offers tips for safely avoiding weight gain over the holidays
  • And more!


President's Challenge News


New Educator Booklet Available

educator bookletCreated specifically for educators, the 2011-2012 educator booklet, "Building a Strong Foundation for America's Future" is now available. The free booklet contains all the specifics of implementing a successful physical activity challenge in schools using the new Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+) or the Presidential Champions challenge. Additionally, it provides information on the Youth Fitness Program and the State Champion or Demonstration Center school recognition programs.


The booklet also includes a sampling of our President's Challenge gear, complete with an order form.


Request your free printed copy of the booklet or download a PDF version today.


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We are also creating a new Get Fit Handbook for 2012. Visit us on Facebook to see photos from the Get Fit photo shoot.



Updates made to Physical Activity Tracker


The times are a-changing, and our activity tracker is too! When determining point calculations, Presidential Champions Challenge participants now have access to our revamped physical activity tracker. In addition to including nutrition logging, we have added a wide variety of new activities.


Integrating technology with activity, we now include activity promoting video games and exercise video workouts. For those who enjoy group exercise sessions, we have added Curves, Pilates, and spin classes. Yoga fans now have the option to specify their preferred style, whether it is Hatha, Power, Nadisohana, or Surya Namaskar. Other activities such as coaching, playing catch, water walking, mountain bike racing, and windsurfing also appear on the new tracker list.


Additionally, we made updates to many of the previous activities in order to reflect the latest in energy expenditure research. The data is drawn from the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities: A Second Update of Codes and MET Values.  


Sign up here and get started using the tracker to earn your award today!



Starting this month, our Get Active section will now feature the newly listed activities from the activity tracker. This month we take a look at spin classes!


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President's Challenge

AE2720 Pedometer

This easy to use step counter makes a great gift for the holidays, and is a wonderful way to keep track of your own step counts each day. This simple step counter features an activity timer, safety leash and President's Challenge logo on the case.  



For information on how to order the President's Challenge AE2720 Pedometer or any of our other merchandise, visit our online shopping center.


PRICE: $8.95




PCFSN and Other Government News


Follow the Council on Twitter

The PCFSN is now on Twitter: @FitnessGov! Follow them for the latest on staying healthy and active. 



Let's Move! Updates


First Lady recognizes schools for offering more healthy choices

First Lady Michelle Obama honored 1,273 schools that were recognized as HealthierUS Schools as part of the HealthierUS Schools Challenge. Among their efforts, these schools voluntarily provide healthy school meals based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate. Watch a video from the event or read more by visiting the White House Blog. 


Council member Michelle Kwan joins First Lady in attempt to break jumping jacks world record

On Oct. 11, President's Council member and Olympic ice-skater Michelle Kwan, along with TODAY weather anchor Al Roker, addressed over 400 students on the White House South Lawn. The students were gathered there to join the First Lady to literally jump their way into the Guinness Book of World Records for jumping jacks. To break the record, over 20,425 people needed to perform a minute's worth of jumping jacks over the course of 24 hours. National Geographic Kids supported the effort by encouraging and hosting events across the country in schools, malls, and other places. Once the Guinness World Records reviews all the events, they will announce if the record was beat. Watch a full-coverage video of the event.

First Lady Michelle Obama Kicks Off Jumping Jacks Challenge
First Lady Michelle Obama Kicks Off Jumping Jacks Challenge



Upcoming Events and Deadlines


National Girls & Women in Sports Day

February 1 

Start planning an event for your school or community today!

Learn more.


AAHPERD National Convention & Exposition

March 13 - 17

Boston, MA

The theme for this year's American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) Convention and Exposition is "United We Move." Register by January 19 for the Early Bird Special.

Learn more. 


ACSM's Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition

March 27-30

Las Vegas, NV

Hosted by the American College of Sports Medicine, this signature fitness conference, gives students, fitness enthusiasts, personal trainers, certified professionals, and others the full spectrum of programming from scientific to practical application. Register by January 4 for the best value.

Learn more. 


2012 National Health Promotion Summit

April 10 - 11

Washington, DC

Attend this event to learn about what can be done to achieve Healthy People 2020 and other national initiatives.

Learn more. 


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Try this: Spin Classes


Taking biking indoors

In 1987, Johnathan Goldberg, a South African cyclist, wanted to devise a way to train for a cross country race...without leaving his pregnant wife at home alone for long periods of time. The solution? A series of stationary bikes in his garage that simulated outdoor training. With this, the concept of spinning was born. By 1992, Goldberg had gone on to create an athletics company that developed spin bikes and trained instructors.


With resistance knobs that can adjust the tension to simulate a variety of terrains, spin bikes are more versatile than regular stationary bikes. The flywheel of a spin bike can move freely even when not pedaling and the steel bodies are strong enough to support standing pedaling, which enables the ride to feel more similar to outdoor biking. The flexibility of the bike settings combined with their valuable training utility makes spin classes and individual spinning appealing to both novice riders and advanced cyclists alike.



The benefits


Weight Loss

Because it allows you use the large muscles of your legs, spinning bikes allow you to engage in cardiovascular exercise. In order to lose weight, you have to use more calories than you consume as food. Cardiovascular activities tend to rapidly burn calories; so depending on your personal diet and activity levels, spinning can help you to lose weight.  



Muscle Endurance

We build muscle endurance through repeated or continued muscle contractions over a long period of time. When participating in a spin class or spinning on your own, if you are pedaling at a moderate intensity for an extended length of time, you can build the muscle endurance of your legs.



As opposed to muscle endurance, strength is quantified as the amount of power or force of a muscle contraction at one time. A muscle will only strengthen when forced to operate beyond its standard intensity. By allowing you to increase the resistance, spin bikes enable you to continually push yourself to build strength in your legs, gluts, and even abs.



In order to remain stable on a spin bike, you have to engage the muscles of your hips, trunk, and back. These core muscles are important for maintaining posture and balance.



People who struggle with their joints are advised to avoid high-impact activity that could further increase their discomfort. Many individuals with joint pain turn to water-based exercise because it does not place any force on their joints. However, spinning provides an out-of-water alternative. Because you can ride while seated, minimal downward force is actually placed on the legs.



Spin classes can be found at many gyms or independent spin studios. Having an instructor ensures that you are doing the exercise in a safe way, and the group atmosphere can help you feel more comfortable. Additionally, most classes feature upbeat music to keep you energized. If you are not a fan of group classes, after learning the basic principles of spinning, you can create your own workouts and utilize a spin bike individually.



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Our featured participant of the month, Nan Little, is just one of many individuals with Parkinson's disease who have turned to cycling to relieve their symptoms. Researcher Dr. Bastiaan Bloem of the Radboud University Nijmegen has postulated that cycling might use a different part of the brain than walking or that the rhythmic cadence of the pedals might cue the nervous system to permit movement, helping diminish Parkinson's symptoms. Learn more about the research behind this phenomenon, and scroll down to the Get Inspired section to read Nan's story.



News and Research 


American Council on Exercise announces fitness trends to watch for 2012

Utilizing their extensive network of over 1,500 fitness professionals, exercise scientists, and allied health providers, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) has compiled a list of Fitness Trends to Watch for in 2012. According to ACE Chief Science Officer Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., they noticed an overall positive attitude shift toward improving health among consumers. The official report for Trends to Watch included nine main categories:

  1. Obesity awareness
  2. Whole-Life training
  3. Behavior modification
  4. Community collaboration
  5. Influence of technology
  6. Senior and youth specialties
  7. Advanced professional education
  8. Workplace support
  9. Popular workouts

To learn more about the impact of each of these trends, read the ACE press release.



Striking a balance for older adults

We know it is important to maintain our sense of balance as we age, but how to go about doing this is less clear. A recent study from the Cochran Library sought to determine which exercise programs best aid older adults with balance. The research was actually an update of a study done in 2007, but this time around the researchers examined an additional 62 types of exercise. Of the categories tested, the following exercises had a positive impact on balance:

  • gait/balance/coordination functional tasks,
  • 3-D exercises (such as dance and yoga),
  • and combination and strengthening programs (which included exercises across categories)

Cycling and walking, while beneficial to other aspects of health, did not appear to affect balance. Likewise, computerized balance programs and vibration plates were ineffective. Read the article to learn more.


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This Thanksgiving, give thanks for a healthy holiday


Taming the feast

At Christmas, we have gifts. For the Fourth of July, we have fireworks.   At Halloween, we have costumes. For Thanksgiving, we have a food. Although many holidays incorporate delicious foods, during Thanksgiving, it becomes the main attraction. Although it may taste scrumptious, the traditional Thanksgiving feast might seem less appetizing once nutritional factors are considered.


According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the average Thanksgiving dinner contains about 3,000 calories. If the additional snacking that tends to occur throughout the day is taken into account, the total caloric intake for the day adds up to approximately 4,500. "A 160 lb. person would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles to burn off a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving Day meal," said Dr. Cedric Bryant, ACE chief exercise physiologist.


Although one day of indulgence will not necessarily destroy your health, there are some simple things you can do to make Thanksgiving more nutritious and less calorically dense.


Before you dig in

  • Eat breakfast

Skipping this meal could lead you to overeat at dinnertime.

  • Have a salad or some fruit and veggies before leaving home or prior to your meal

This way you will feel fuller and less likely to overeat.

  • Fill up on water

With zero calories, water is a great way to stay hydrated and feel fuller without increasing your energy intake.


When you cook

  • myplatePrepare your stuffing outside the bird with whole wheat bread

Using whole wheat bread will help you get more whole grains as suggested by MyPlate. By preparing the stuffing outside the turkey, it will not absorb fat from the drippings.

  • Replace the butter with olive oil and chicken broth

When preparing your turkey, you can save up to 400 calories while still maintaining flavor by doing this.

  • Use a low-fat cooking method for the turkey

Rather than frying your turkey, grill, broil, roast, or bake it to allow for more fat to drip away.

  • Refrigerate the turkey drippings before preparing the gravy

This way, you can skim off some of the hardened fat, reducing the amount that goes into your gravy. 

  • If you have time, prepare the cranberry relish yourself

You can make cranberry relish yourself by just adding together two cups of fresh cranberries, one granny smith apple, one navel orange, and a little honey. The preparation does not take long, but it will save about 100 calories and cut the sugar of this side dish nearly in half compared to canned cranberry sauces.

  • Use non-fat or reduced-fat milk in your mashed potatoes

These substitutions for 2% or whole milk will incorporate less fat without dramatically impacting your recipe.


As you eat

  • Make MyPlate your plate

Don't think about Thanksgiving dinner as a buffet. Consider the kinds of foods and portions suggested by MyPlate. By choosing smaller portions, you can sample more of the different foods. 

  • Use smaller dishes

People have a tendency to fill their plates, so if you have a small plate, you will usually end up eating less food. It may seem obvious, but smaller dishes really do encourage smaller portion sizes.  

  • Avoid eating the skin on the turkey

          This will significantly reduce your intake of fat and cholesterol.

  • Go for the white meat

A serving (for which the portion should be just slightly larger than a deck of cards) of white meat is 124 calories, compared to 286 calories for the same amount of dark meat. 

  • Use a tablespoon to pour your gravy

By using an actual tablespoon instead of the spout of the gravy dish, you will have better portion control.

  • Enjoy your pumpkin pie

Like any dessert, pumpkin pie is high in sugar. However, compared to another popular dessert, carrot cake, pumpkin pie tends to have about half the calories and half the fat. Pumpkin pie also trumps pecan pie. While the pecan nuts contain healthy fats, this is not enough to compensate for the unhealthy corn syrup found in most fillings. Additionally, pumpkin can be a great source of beta-carotenes, an antioxidant that supports the immune system. Furthermore, pumpkin is high in fiber, which will help you achieve a sense of fullness and curb your desire to continue eating.



CBS News

American Council on Exercise (ACE) 



News and Research


Not just a grain of salt

Most Americans are consuming too much salt on a daily basis, putting

them at risk for high blood pressure and associated health problems, such as heart disease and stroke. The health care costs associated with these conditions add up quickly. Even if Americans could reduce their consumption by about 10 percent, the U.S. could save an estimated $4 billion in health care expenditures per year.


People between the ages of 2 and 51 should consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, according to the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Yet, based on an analysis of data from 2005-2008, the U.S. Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that a whopping 98.6 percent of Americans in this age range regularly exceed this recommendation.


Those who are 51 or older, as well as higher risk groups like those with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should limit intake to 1,500 milligrams a day or less. The survey discovered that 88.2 percent of people in this category exceed their daily recommendations.


With numbers like these, something needs to be done; however, it will take more than putting the saltshakers away to eliminate this problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only about 25 percent of the sodium Americans consume is added by the consumer or occurs naturally in foods. The other 75 percent is all added to commercial foods during processing or restaurant foods during preparation. This means, the U.S. will need national, integrated strategies in order to combat this population-wide dilemma.  Read more.



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Guest Column 


Healthy ways to take on winter weather and holiday hunger


Marjie Gilliam

Fact or myth? A commonly held belief is that most people gain five to ten pounds during the holidays. The good news is that recent studies show that weight gain for most people actually amounts to only about one pound during the winter holiday season. The bad news, however, is that this extra weight is often not lost over the remainder of the year. Subtle slow rises in weight over the years may be a major contributor to obesity later in life.


When researchers asked about factors that they felt might influence weight change, including stress, hunger, activity level or number of holiday parties attended, it was found that only two factors influenced weight gain: 1) levels of perceived hunger and 2) amount of activity. No surprise that those who reported being much more active or much less hungry were the least likely to gain weight during holidays, and some even lost weight, while those who reported being less active or more hungry during the holidays had the greatest holiday weight gain.


If you are inspired to become more active in the colder months with outdoor exercise, you'll want to do it safely. The temperature of your muscles, tendons and ligaments is significantly reduced in the cold, making them less pliable. This is one of the reasons that exercising in cold weather can feel so much more tiring and difficult.


The colder it is outside, the more important it is to give your body a decent warm up along with some gentle stretching and a good cool down as you get to the end of the workout. This helps to elevate muscle temperature, allows for greater movement of joints while lessening injury risk. An adequate warm-up/cool-down in cold temperatures involves 10 minutes or so of a low-intensity activity. In severe conditions, it can be difficult to adequately elevate muscle temperature. If this is the case, a warm up should be longer and with slightly greater intensity.


When exercising in the cold, it is also extremely important to dress appropriately, drink water before, during and after the activity, and avoid alcohol. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, encouraging heat loss, and increases fluid loss through its diuretic effects.


Be heart smart! Heart attacks are particularly common in sedentary men and women who engage in sudden exercise, such as shoveling snow. In the cold, the arteries in the heart constrict and blood pressure rises, and it is harder to breathe and move efficiently. Heart attack risk increases in the elderly, those who have pre-existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, and in those who are inactive and overweight. One study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported 53 percent more heart attacks occur during the winter months as compared to the summertime. Know your limitations, plan accordingly, and listen to your body.


Let's face it; the holidays can be a stressful time. One of the very best ways to combat stress is by being physically active. Not only is exercise a healthy, positive outlet, but it's a great opportunity to get away and spend some time taking care of yourself. For those who feel agitated or angry when stressed, intense forms of activity like punching a 'heavy bag' or going for a long run, can do wonders for releasing pent-up energy. For others, feelings of fatigue and sadness may arise when stressed. In this case, exercise provides the perfect pick me up. With activity, the brain releases 'feel good' chemicals, helping you to become naturally happier and more peaceful.


Feeling 'up-tight'? When you are under stress, your muscles involuntarily contract, leaving you feeling stiff and achy. The neck, back and shoulders are commonly affected areas. Getting a massage, or taking just a few minutes to gently stretch can make all the difference, leaving you feeling relaxed and refreshed.    It is important for all of us to take time to relax and unwind periodically throughout the day, even if it is only for a few minutes.  Deep breathing techniques and simple stretches can help take the edge off an otherwise hectic day.


Marjie Gilliam is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist and freelance journalist, and has authored thousands of articles devoted to health and wellness. Each month we feature one of her articles. Check back next month to see what she has to say about seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as it relates to fitness, health and wellness.



Share Your Story


More Than a Challenge

President's Challenge participant Nan Little shares how she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with Parkinson's Disease


Nan Little
Nan Little

In January 2008, I wrote in my journal: "I wish my hand would stop shaking. It's like I've got Parkinson's or something." I received my Parkinson's diagnosis a month later and resigned myself to a diminished life.


Then I learned of neuroscientist Dr. Jay Alberts' work at the Cleveland Clinic demonstrating that rapid-cadence cycling could reduce Parkinson's symptoms.  Dr. Alberts invited my husband and me to ride with Pedaling for Parkinson's across Iowa in The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). I began riding from 20 to 35 miles four to five times per week, striving for 80 to 90 rpm with my heart rate at 60 to 80 percent of my maximum. After about a month, my symptoms largely disappeared! We rode RAGBRAI in both 2009 and 2010.


In 2011, at age 65, I was invited to climb 19,340 feet to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with a group of people living with Parkinson's or Multiple Sclerosis as part of Empowerment Through Adventure.

Empowerment Through Adventure
Nan Little (left) and Lori Schneider display their Empowerment Through Adventure banner on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.


As we trained for the climb, my husband and I dutifully tracked our progress on the President's Challenge website. Watching our own progress and comparing it to the Team Parkinson's group became additional motivation (along with the stark realization of what we had signed up to do) to train hard for seven months, climbing thousands of steps as well as cycling and building core strength.


We entered the Machame Gate on Mt. Kilimanjaro July 13, beginning our five-and-a-half-day climb to reach high camp at 15,500 feet. As we left at 10:45 p.m. to begin our summit ascent, my husband whispered, "I know you can make it." That kept me going most of the long night I spent climbing 4,000 more feet to the top of the mountain. Many struggled with the altitude and the cold, and several climbers descended. It was 15� F and windy, effectively about 0� F. My guide fed me partly frozen water and stuffed GU and Shot Blocks in my mouth as if I were a baby. Trancelike, I followed his footsteps.


When we reached the crater rim, I wept. In another hour we reached the summit. I unfurled my Banner of Encouragement, made a video, and took my Parkinson's meds. Nearly 13 hours after setting off in the night, I returned to high camp. I had stood at the top of Africa! 

Parkinson's and MS patients summit Mt Kilimanjaro 
Parkinson's and MS patients summit Mt Kilimanjaro

Although there was profound joy in reaching the top, climbing Kilimanjaro was not just about reaching that goal. I recognized that I am a person who climbs real and virtual mountains who just happens to have Parkinson's disease. Many people have told me my effort inspired them to think of themselves differently too, in spite of their Parkinson's. We don't have to climb Kilimanjaro or ride across Iowa. People with neurodegenerative diseases can live many dreams; the point is to make the choice to do it.


Now I'm working with YMCA and other organizations to start Pedaling for Parkinson's programs so that thousands of others can experience some of the benefits I enjoy as a result of fast-paced cycling. 

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If you are a President's Challenge participant, we want to hear from you! How has the President's Challenge impacted your life? Tell us about your personal fitness and nutrition journey.  Share with us today, so we can publish your story can inspire others!  E-mail your story to our writer, Brooke, at



Advocate of the Month



Founded in 2001, Protica Inc. is a large food and beverage manufacturer. Protica established the ProticaCares program to help teach children the importance of balanced nutrition as part of a well-rounded diet and a healthy lifestyle.  ProticaCares will send healthy treats from several contributing manufacturers, along with Food Pyramid Information and PALA literature, to a different pediatric hospital or grade school in the U.S. every week


The ProticaCares package reaches at least 30 children every week. It has a  positive impact on them,  their parents, teachers and healthcare professionals. The package includes fun, educational literature to help kids learn about the PALA program, and it encourages them to incorporate its lessons into their daily lives.  Also included are suggestions for the teachers and parents (talking points) about PALA, exercise and health and nutrition.

Our Advocates help to increase participation in the President's Challenge and encourage people to lead active, healthy lives. Learn more. 

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We hope you enjoyed this month's issue of Fitness is Fun.

As we begin to create our next issue, we would like to hear from you!

We welcome questions or comments regarding current content and are open to suggestions for future topics we should address. Inspiring stories are also appreciated and could become features in upcoming issues. 

E-mail us at


The Fitness is Fun staff
The President's Challenge