The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 20, 2012

Celebration launches Physical Activity Plan

Tens of thousands of students from more than 230 schools statewide danced the Cupid Shuffle Thursday to celebrate the first West Virginia Physical Activity Day.

While the celebration was a jovial one to launch West Virginia Physical Activity Plan at the Capitol, the plan itself aims to diminish serious health issues by supporting healthy living and to increase the quality of life for every West Virginian.

A few dozen students danced at the Capitol with Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.

He said he hoped to play a small part in promoting healthy living among today’s children, who through the availability of video games and other technology don’t seem to be as physically active as previous generations.

“Anything that gets you up off the couch and just stay active, it would be great for your longevity and health,” Murphy said.

According to the latest state Behavioral Risk Factor Survey, 31 percent of West Virginians report no leisure time physical activity — such as running, golf, gardening or walking for exercise — in any given month. That’s the fifth highest percentage in the United States, where the national average is 25.5 percent.

More reasons to get moving — West Virginia has the highest prevalence of cardiovascular disease and strokes, while ranking second in the nation for diabetes and smoking and third for obesity.

West Virginians have made significant strides since the mid-1990s, when physical inactivity peaked at 45.3 percent of residents. But the percentage has grown since 2004, when it bottomed out at 24.5 percent.

The West Virginia Activity Plan, modeled after a national plan called 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for All Americans, is expected to increase physical activity levels of children and adults through “the establishment of a culture that facilitates physically active lifestyles in every societal sector and geographic region.”

The 43-page plan seeks to build partnerships among schools, communities and park systems. Among other things, it encourages sidewalk improvements, increasing the number of bike racks at schools and accessibility to trails that connect to neighboring communities. For students, one of the goals is to diversify and maximize physical education offerings, both during and after school.

The plan calls for public policies such as tax incentives for businesses including sporting goods stores and fitness centers, and wellness programs in which participants meet clinically significant goals.

It urges government agencies to allocate funds for resources, although it doesn’t seek specific amounts.

“We’re going to review the plan and find out what opportunities there are,” said state Sen. Ron Stollings, a Boone County physician and chairman of the Senate Health and Human Resources committee.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin came up with one quick idea — parents should take their kids outside after the next winter storm to build snowmen, have snowball fights or explore their neighborhoods by foot. He also encouraged older residents to seek out their local senior centers to socialize and get fit.

The West Virginia Association of Counties created a resolution advocating physical activity for county commissions to adopt. To date, 35 of West Virginia’s 55 counties have adopted the resolution including Fayette, Greenbrier, Monroe, Nicholas, Raleigh, Summers and Wyoming counties.

— Reporter Sarah Plummer contributed to this report.

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