Working to stem the nationwide obesity epidemic a Nutrition Scientist and Tufts University professor has begun a national tour calling on women to connect with each other to improve food and physical activity in their towns. Dr. Miriam Nelson PhD selected Kenai as the starting point for her tour, "We started in Kenai because of our long standing relationship with the Kenaitze Indian Tribe in terms of our strength training and healthy hearts program to help reduce chronic diseases in mid-life and older women. So our natural connection here with Linda Tannehill of the UAF cooperative extension service and some other incredible women was the reason we came to Kenai to start the 'Change Club' and StrongWomen Across America tour," explained Nelson, who recently published a book outlining a community approach to wellness.
Nelson's tour aims to initiate grass-roots, community-wide changes in the food and physical activity environments of eight rural communities. "Considering 67% of Americans are either overweight or obese, a vast number of people must make immediate individual lifestyle changes for their health, but the effort we put in as individuals will only take us so far. The latest research tells us the obesity crisis is mainly a product of habits we develop based on our social environments of family and friends as well as our physical environments, many of which offer few options for exercise," says Nelson.
The Change Club in Kenai started this summer, "They formed in July and decided they really wanted to work on jump starting physical activity, so with the support of Borough Mayor Carey there was a proclamation to jump start physical activity this week," said Nelson. "The idea is that we believe that these women can really create change and that women many times are at the heart of social change and that they really care about their community, not that men don't, but that women together really have a collective energy. The Change Clubs are groups of 10 to 15 women who are committed to staying fit, strong and healthy and to motivate others to adopt a healthier lifestyle. We envision them as the catalysts of community-wide environmental changes, which will include providing healthier food for local concession stands, food standards for afterschool programs or spearheading the construction of new sidewalks or bike paths to encourage physical activity," she says.
Traveling by car, Nelson and her team of StrongWomen staff will spend three days in each community. They will engage the Change Clubs in awareness-building activities, work with the members on their site-specific environmental change, and empower them through team building activities. Kenai Mayor Pat Porter says she is looking forward to the groups input on the City's new trails development plan that is currently in draft form. Throughout the tour, Nelson will blog on StrongWomen.com and post pictures and video to highlight the work of the Change Clubs and the StrongWomen team's experience attempting to eat well and stay physically active on the road. Nelson has published nine books including Strong Women Stay Young and four other New York Times bestsellers. These books, published in 14 languages, have sold more than a million copies worldwide. Her 10th book, The Social Network Diet: Change Yourself, Change the World, will be released in conjunction with the tour. To learn more or to follow the tour go to www.strongwomen.com/tour.