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On Sunday, I had the great opportunity to visit the 2008 NBC Health and Fitness Expo at the Convention Center in Washington, DC. This is my third year going (this is the 15th year of the event) to the expo and every time I go, I get blown away at the vendors and the sheer amount of attendees that show up.

According to the NBC 4 website, over 85,000 people showed up to take part in the variety of giveaways, health screenings, and even activities like salsa dancing! The expo was held on Saturday and Sunday but unfortunately I was only able to make the tail end of Sunday – as they say, better late than never right?

As soon as you enter the Washington Convention Center, there were clear signs leading you to the event. When you got to the top of the escalator platform, you got a clear view of what was happening – it was awesome.

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Despite having limited time, I did manage to get around to some great booths. The most interesting exhibit I came across was Mark Marten’s FitClub demo. Mark heads up Pantometrics, a company that develops exercise technology for fitness equipment. As I was walking past his booth, I couldn’t help but notice a young girl on a stationery bike looking at a screen that basically looked like a virtual Tour de France!

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How cool is that?!

I was very impressed and had to stop by and chat with Mark for a few, getting his insight into the product and what motivated him. I’m going to try to get an interview with him so stay tuned for that. This is exactly the kind of innovation that we need to be working on in order to merge together popular technology and the benefit of healthy living!

As the event began to wind down, I got the impression that thousands of people left the facility a little more enlightened about staying healthy and became aware of the different organizations in the area that are devoted to ensuring that it stays that way. Next year I hope to visit the expo on both days and cover more events.

There was an article I found on the NBC 4 website that highlighted a man who said that the event saved his life. Here is a snippet:

…A 61-year-old Maryland man said if not for free medical screenings he received at NBC4’s Health and Fitness Expo about eight years ago, he might have died.

Banjo player Frank Cassel said he knew his health was in jeopardy, but he hadn’t seen a doctor. He went to the Health and Fitness Expo, where medical experts performed a battery of tests for free.

“They found out that all my levels of sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides were all severely elevated,” Cassel said…Cassel was diagnosed with uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes. That diagnosis prompted him to make some major changes in his life, like eating healthier to control his diabetes and starting a regular exercise program. Now his blood sugar is under control and his cholesterol is down.

“If I hadn’t gone to the Health Expo and gotten tested, it’s very possible I would have died,” he said. Cassel was so thankful for the Expo that he wrote a song about it…

Amazing. One of the things I was taught while learning about Community Health in college (and that I still hold onto), is that even the smallest success in someone’s life is a huge victory. And as we all know the world is getting smaller, each victory has the potential to spread into larger victories through word of mouth. What if Mr. Cassel decided to sing the praises of the Expo to his family and friends (as you can see, he DID write a song about the event!)? What if they decided to check the Expo out next year or better yet, decided to make some changes in their own lifestyle to promote better health?

Kudos to you NBC and to the rest of you deciding to make small steps to better yourselves.

It’s never too late to start.

*see more pictures from the event here

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Well I hope everyone has enjoyed some time off with friends, family and loved ones over the Christmas holiday! I certainly did – plenty of laughter, games and good food.

Most of you who have been following the past couple of posts realize that I thoroughly enjoy playing the Nintendo Wii. It has everything I want in a video game console: fun, nice graphics and interactivity (gotta love these remotes/nunchucks!). And yes, I absolutely did play til I couldn’t play anymore. The Wii Sports Boxing always, always makes me look like I just came out of a pool and my aunt lets me know that I can’t sit back on the nice couch drenched in sweat. Gotta take the good with the bad I guess.

Well, today I was reading through Tara Parker-Pope’s recent article over at the New York Times and apart from the speculation that it wasn’t a “real” study, it got me thinking. Basically, the study from the British Medical Journal says that although games on the Wii, such as Wii Tennis, do allow children to burn more calories than less interactive (read: less moving around) games, it still is no substitute for the real activity. Spoof study or not, I think most people can come to that conclusion without much scientific investigation. But alas, I have another point to ponder upon!

Have we as a society become so sedentary and so bogged down with “losing 20 pounds in just one week” gimmicks that we have forgotten how to really stay healthy and active? When I was in elementary school, healthy living principles were taught frequently. Health education classes were important – your basic tenets of drinking more water, less soda/sweets, and running around in the sunshine were ingrained in our everyday lives as kids! Forget that some of the pictures in the textbooks were from the really early 80s where kids wore super short shorts – they were HEALTHY for Pete’s sake!

I’m sure 20 years ago people would have laughed at the idea of jumping and bouncing around with a video game as a form of exercise – that would have just been considered jumping and bouncing around with a video game. But nowadays, seeing a few beads of sweat on the average gamer child or teen is so rare, we applaud the moment. Forgive me if I’m wrong but I think we should focus on the basics again and for a good while in the classroom, because if I hear another 11 year old talking about going on the Atkins diet or asking about a new weight loss drug, I’m going to go insane. Wii for older adults/seniors on the other hand, might be something to look into.

Ever think about how interactive Duck Hunt could be now? Naaaahh…

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