‘It all comes back to health’

KAPAA — Five minutes and two seconds.

That’s how long it took about 100 people to get in some meaningful exercise Friday. And they did it sitting down.

“This is a perfect example of how you can fit physical activity into your day,” said Bev Brody, Get Fit Kauai director.

During a break in the group’s annual meeting and breakfast at the Courtyard Marriott, Brody had the group waving arms up and down, kicking legs in and out, and even lifting rear-ends out of seats.

Most smiled and laughed throughout, trying to keep pace with the energetic Brody, who led with commands, jokes and by example. When it was done, some were admittedly a bit winded — but proud because they didn’t quit.

The point being, it took just 300 seconds, in the middle of a meeting, for people to get their blood flowing, muscles working, and hearts beating faster.

“Anybody can do it,” Brody said. “It doesn’t have to be a half hour.”

Get Fit Kauai is all about getting people to make smart choices when it comes to what they eat, what they do and how they influence those around them. And whether it’s at home, at work or in the community, everyone has the chance to improve their health by making some simple lifestyle changes.

It’s also an advocate for creating a community that embraces physical activity, starting with keiki and continuing to kupuna. It promotes safe routes to schools, walking and biking more, and driving less. It emphasizes worksite wellness.

Many believe Get Fit Kauai is having an impact.

“I believe they really, truly are,” said Andy Honl of Kauai Path. “It’s just having the awareness in the community of all the different options available to us.”

He said it’s important to start with the keiki, and Get Fit Kauai does that in many ways, including the Mayorathon in June.

“They can carry that forward and bring it home. It helps get the message out,” Honl said.

During Friday’s meeting, which included Get Fit Kauai members from the Big Island, Maui and Oahu, the organization touted past successes and looked at challenges ahead.

Karen Silver, task force chair of Get Fit Kauai’s worksite wellness leadership team, said people on Kauai spend many hours working, so it’s critical that the workplace be the best it can to encourage health and wellness. That could be by providing healthy snacks, bike racks, gym memberships or training to reduce stress.

It’s in the midst of its 2016 Worksite Wellness Challenge, which includes 17 companies and businesses vying for the crown and bragging rights.

Several companies have initiated huge changes already, Silver said. One converted an outdoor lanai to a yoga studio. Another is working with a chef to create healthy options in the cafeteria.

“I’m really excited about this challenge,” she said.

Lee Steinmetz, safe routes to school task force chair, said there has been a reduction in traffic congestion around schools because more students are walking and riding bikes, and that’s because safer routes have been created for them.

“That is our goal, that every day is walk to school day,” he said.

The keynote speaker, Matt Raimi, founder of Raimi and Associates in Berkeley, California, has nearly 20 years of experience incorporating public health concerns into the planning process and promoting sustainable development.

“I’m a little intimated. You guys are doing such cool stuff,” he said.

He said health is important to success in, well, almost everything.

“It all comes back to health,” he said.

Raimi said the U.S. is one of the wealthiest countries, yet life expectany is 51st. More than a third of the U.S. population is considered obese. An estimated 29 million people have diabetes. Another 27 million have heart disease. Medical costs continue to climb.

There’s are reasons for all those health problems. Genetics, economics and social factors and learned behaviors are all factors. But the way communities are developed is a factor, too.

“All are actually related to the environment we built,” Raimi said.

People are spending less time exercising and more time eating, watching TV and in their cars. And part of that problem is because communities are created in such a way that people must rely on their cars to reach the store, work or visit friends.

That trend can be changed by building mixed-use developments, which promote walking, biking and being active without worrying about being run over by a vehicle.

For people to want to walk more, it must be safe and it must be pleasant, Raimi said.

“The design of the environment really matters,” he said. “Think about the pedestrian and not about the car.”

Such developments cost more up front, but can pay for themselves over time.

“In the long run it’s a good investment,” he said. “Walkable environments actually produce better results.”

Brody said Get Fit Kauai has united community members, civic groups, government agencies and businesses, and has been doing the very things recommended by Raimi.

“Get Fit Kauai is able to instill motivation, get people excited about healthy changes that can happen in our community,” she said. “The task force chairs of Get Fit Kauai have the ability to instill not just hope, but promise in building healthier communities, worksites and schools.”

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