I’ve always felt that the rapid approaching of summer has a unique power of infusing a new type of energy in people. There’s something undeniably exhilarating about the promise of sunshine that inspires a mindset to try something new.
It seems rather befitting, then, that May was designated National Physical Fitness and Sports Month by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. The council, having been active for over 50 years, brings together a collection of renowned physicians, chefs, and fitness experts aiming to encourage a new health outlook through a myriad of awareness programs.
Setting aside a period of time to reflect on the condition of our country’s physical fitness seems to be a sensible course of action. After all, a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published last week found that, out of a group of 450,000 adults, only 21 percent regularly reached the weekly aerobic and strength-training recommendations.
This strikes dismal similarities with a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey last month, which discovered that a mere 29 percent of teenagers fully engaged in an hour or more of physical exercise per day.
What could the month of May help spark in terms of a fitness renewal? I feel that, while there certainly are indoor means of staying in shape, the accent this time belongs on tapping into the multitude of simple, budget-friendly outdoor activities. Whether it be taking brisk strolls along the canal or bicycling to the nearest park, I think it’s the prime time to nurture connections between family and friends and to embrace every opportunity of taking in the fresh air.
Better yet, I encourage anyone searching for a way to take advantage of the nicer weather in pursuit of a health- and fitness-related activity to look into Relay for Life, a program of the American Cancer Society that consists of 24-hour fundraising walks. On a global scale, Relays occur in 20 different countries and raise over $400 million each year, money that is contributed to greater cancer research as well as to recovery programs for cancer patients and caretakers.
This year’s Turlock Relay for Life will be held on May 18 and 19 on the track at Dutcher Middle School, located on Colorado Avenue. More than 670 individuals from around the area have already formed teams and are preparing to walk, not to mention the countless sponsors, event coordinators, and bystanders who cheer the walkers and runners on.
I attended a Turlock Relay for Life for the first time last year, and I can still recall standing on the sidelines to watch the Survivor Lap, during which a large group of cancer survivors had the chance to make their way around the track, all the while exuding those sentiments of victory and triumph that must be seen to be understood. And even as a bystander, I still remember feeling a sense of empowerment myself by the thought that, despite the grueling circumstances and trying times that may transpire, strength and hope can prevail.
This feeling was only reinforced when I began to visit the array of booths that lined the track and offered free refreshments or services with proceeds donated to the overall fundraising campaign. In one of the booths, a ten-year-old girl was helping paint nails for donations. As she selected a color for me and proceeded to coat my cuticles ever so meticulously, she expressed that she had been coming to the Relays for Life for as long as she could remember. “I like it,” she told me. “It’s fun to help.”
These and other collections of stories and efforts give for a remarkable testament to the tenacity of a community. It’s a moving reminder that the advances we make, the hope we inspire, and the change we create can all start with a community of individuals banding together.
That is why I encourage folks to find some way to participate or lend assistance to this year’s Turlock Relay for Life. Anything helps — both in making headway against cancer and in supporting an event that promotes healthful physical activity.
Clearly, I think it fair to say that, especially here in Turlock, we have a plethora of ways to sufficiently partake in National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. It is up to us to make use of these opportunities and set our community on a path towards vigor and health.
— Henna Hundal is a high school student and resident of Turlock. She writes a monthly column on matters related to youth and our society