Be Active Your Way for National Physical Fitness and Sports Month

Team USA, including Shellie Pfohl, Karlin Hayes (standing, left to right) and Susan Katz (seated), on the bank of the Missouri River in July 2010 at the start of RAGBRAI — a week-long bike ride across the state of Iowa. At 14, I never would have guessed that setting the volleyball, swinging the softball bat, or biking around the park could mean so much. Back then, just playing on a team with my peers was its own reward. Now, though, I can confidently look back and say those youth sports experiences, whether I hit a double or struck out swinging, helped to shape me into the person I've become — an athlete and achiever for life.

This National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is the perfect time for youth and families to get outside and play together! You don't have to train for the Olympics to be active and prioritize your health. Whether you're planting a garden or chasing your kids around the park, physical activity can be a lot of fun. It makes you feel good, too.

To celebrate this important observance, President Barack Obama issued a national proclamation and, within it, a call to action for all of us to make physical activity part of our daily lives. As you may know, the President is an avid basketball player and golfer! And guess what? His wife walks the walk, too. Through her Let's Move! initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama has made it her top priority to end childhood obesity within a generation. Four years after the initiative launched, we are on our way to reaching that goal.

National Women's Health Week is also celebrated this month from May 11 to 17. Did you know that female athletes have higher levels of self-esteem, a lower rate of depression, and a more positive body image compared with non-athletes? It's never too early or too late to get active — just start where you are today and set realistic goals you can work to achieve.

I'm pledging to get back on the bike for some cross-training and explore America's great outdoors this summer. I challenge each of you to choose an activity or sport you can stick to and encourage your loved ones and neighbors to do the same. Join me! Get on the map by pledging to get active.

The President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition offers a rewarding program called the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+) for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities who want to jumpstart or maintain a healthy lifestyle. PALA+ encourages participants to set new physical activity and healthy eating goals and track their progress online. In keeping with the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, PALA+ helps adults stay motivated to achieve 30 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous activity each day (youth need 60 minutes or more), at least five days a week for six weeks. At the end of the program, you could actually receive presidential recognition!

So what are you waiting for? Earn your PALA+ and visit the President's Council website for tips to stay motivated throughout the month. Now go outside and play!