Thursday, August 18, 2016

Healthy Lee challenging residents to get fit

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 8/10/2016

Ten years into an ambitious and collaborative effort to make Lee County an all-around healthier place to live, the community coalition known as Healthy Lee is going strong.

The initiative is led by Lee Memorial Health System and the Florida Department of Health in Lee County and includes almost 300 active individuals and organizations all striving to improve the health and wellbeing of residents and visitors. The approach is multidimensional both in its areas of focus and the way it attempts to reach the general public, government agencies, for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Using sophisticated health data that gauges many health indicators for individuals, ethnic groups, socio-economic categories, and geographic sub-communities, Healthy Lee’s leadership is able to get a good picture of how Lee County is doing and what needs to be the focus of attention. Although a moving target, one that’s always at the top is health problems related to obesity. Most research confirms that inactivity and poor nutritional habits - sometimes due to lack of access to good foods due to scarcity (i.e., food desserts) and/or economics - are two of the primary causes of the condition.

To address the ongoing obesity problem Healthy Lee’s current awareness campaign is the 5210 Pledge. Its aim is to get folks to eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day, limit screen time (TV, video games, computer, etc.) to two hours a day, engage in at least one hour of physical activity daily, and refrain completely from consuming any sugar-sweetened beverages (including those that are artificially sweetened). This campaign began as a child-focused school district / health department initiative but was expanded to all ages for the summer.

Following 5210 Healthy Lee’s next big promotion will be round-two of the Million Mile Movement, a public campaign that was first undertaken last year in the fall but will be moved to a new year’s resolution time period this time. The logic being, of course, to seize upon the post-holiday season collective attempt to undo the damage done during the prior three months. Starting with Halloween, when candy is everywhere and the “(over)eating season” begins, many of us take part in one holiday occasion after another with food and drink as the main attraction. During the 2015 campaign more than 2,600 individuals - some as team members - tracked their walking miles as well as converted their running, cycling, swimming, stair-climbing, other workouts such as weight lifting, aerobics, Zumba and Pilates, and even activities such as gardening and yard work into miles. Recording one’s activities, whether competing with others or just one’s self, is a very effective and simple motivator. It’s as easy as wearing a pedometer or keeping time. And like any of Healthy Lee’s campaigns, there’s no charge to participate in Million Mile Movement. Simply visit the website ( for more information and to sign up once the new challenge opens registration.

Healthy Lee logo

Healthy Lee’s activity and event calendar is another excellent resource to tap into. While it’s still being underutilized by those organizing active events, the plan is to make it the go-to calendar for everything from health expos to bike rides, walk-a-thons, triathlons and running events. And one need not be an active Health Lee participant to post an event, as long as it’s appropriate and not merely a self-promotion for a for-profit venture. But don’t overlook,,,,, and when seeking things to do to improve your health and well-being.

One final word is in order. Along with its counterpart, the Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition, which has been active for more than 20 years, Healthy Lee is working to impart very basic and common knowledge that’s ignored (shunned?) by too many of us. This, as you can imagine, is both frustrating for those working to improve the community’s health and safety and is counterproductive for the public at large. The basic premise of both coalitions is that we should embrace an active lifestyle while doing so with due care and not take unnecessary risks.

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways…. ¦

- Dan Moser is a long-time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at and 334- 6417.

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