“To keep myself physically strong” is more than a line from the Scout Oath. It’s a national challenge the Boy Scouts of America is rising to meet.
Today, one in three young Americans is overweight or obese according to the White House task force on childhood obesity, adult-onset diabetes is appearing in children as young as 10 years old, and kids are spending as much time in front of televisions and computers as they are spending in school. While Scouting can’t solve all these problems, we can offer young people incentives to get active and stay healthy.
The best incentive, of course, is the out-of-doors. We tightened our fitness requirements in 2011 to ensure that Scouts and leaders who venture into the backcountry can do so without posing a risk to themselves or others.
But we’re doing more than setting standards. We’re also setting an example. Over the summer, 16 volunteer and professional leaders blogged their progress during the BSA Adult Leadership Walk-the-Walk Activity Challenge, and we added a sunrise run/walk to our Top Hands meeting.
We also unveiled a new award at Top Hands: theSCOUTStrong PALA Challenge, which we developed in collaboration with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. A Scout-specific version of the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, the program recognizes Scouts and adults who meet daily activity standards over a six-week period. Our goal is to have 500,000 Scouts meet the challenge before the 2013 National Scout Jamboree.
Beyond awards and activities, we’re re-examining camp menus, reviewing advancement requirements to ensure that every program at every age promotes a healthy lifestyle, and emphasizing fitness content in Boys’ Life magazine. The magazine’s website even offers free exercise videos and a simple dumbbell-based workout routine.
Will our healthy living initiative succeed? One comment posted on the Boys’ Life website is encouraging: “I’ve tried other things, but this actually works. And I’m starting to see a little six-pack show up.”