What Works: The PALA Active Lifestyle Challenge

You have just enough time left if you act now to join me in the Million PALA Challenge — a national campaign to get people active. (Sign up and join us at “Team Busted Halo” or group #935845.) This challenge has been going on for a year, and I’m sorry about the last minute notice, but you still have time. I learned about it just recently from Kevin Sorbo, whose organization, A World Fit For Kids, is an official partner of the presidential program responsible for the challenge, and signed up myself.

To complete the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) challenge and receive an (emailed) PALA certificate “signed” by co-chairs Drew Brees and Dominique Dawes, you have until the end of September to log six weeks in which you are active for at least half an hour each day for five of the seven days. (Or one hour per day for those under 18.) You register on the website and log and track your activities there. The Million PALA Challenge is a campaign to get one million Americans to complete this plan.

I’ve created a group you can participate through. (After you sign up, search for “Team Busted Halo” or group #935845 and join us.) You can just sign up on your own, but I figured I might as well make it a little easier for you, and maybe a little more fun to see our cumulative numbers of our group. If no one does this, that’s OK, but I hope it’s the motivation a few of you need to get moving.

If you’re already pretty active, then this isn’t very difficult. There’s nothing that says what your activity should be, just that you be active. Stroll for half an hour: you’re set. Or you can run, cycle, hike, use a cardio machine, whatever. Anything works, as long as you’re up and active. So why not sign up, log the activity that you’re already doing and get the award!

But it your idea of a walk is the distance from your car to the door, then this challenge may be just the gentle introduction you need to a more active life.

I already walk a fair amount. I’ll usually walk anything less than a mile. But it’s not always as much as a half hour a day, so this challenge is encouraging me to take less direct and more enjoyable routes. And while many weekends I enjoy a hike or a kayaking trip, that’s just once a week. For me, the main thing this challenge has done is to get me to dust off the ole elliptical machine. It’s the perfect answer for those days I find myself at home at the end of the day without having gotten in the half hour of activity. To be honest, that dust on the elliptical was pretty thick, and several very good intentions in the past year didn’t get the dusting job done. So I’m very grateful for this challenge.

Take charge of your own activity level

Regular exercise helps you to stay healthy, balanced and available to the spiritual dimension of life.

I’ll never forget the first time I lived outside New York as an adult (well, kind of adult; I was 17 or 18 years old.) I was in a city, but it was a city of private houses, not apartment buildings, and everyone had cars. The supermarket was a block and a half away. The first month or so that I was there, I walked to get groceries, but before long, I gave in to the design of the streets and the community and started driving the block and a half. I’ll never forget noticing that I’d switched and feeling like I’d given in to convenience over the natural order of things. But that didn’t make me go back to walking. In this society we must sometimes stake out practices that defy what our culture is encouraging us to do. Our society offers us unlimited entertainment from our couch; unlimited access to information and communication from our desk; and numerous ways to get from one place to the next without exerting ourselves: moving sidewalks, escalators, cars, the hipster fashion accessory kick scooter, and the most absurd of all, the Segway.

This is not to say you must skip every escalator. But you don’t have to take an energy-saving option just because it’s offered. You’ll notice that almost every diet plan assumes it’s combined with regular exercise. And this challenge will help get you on a path to losing weight if that’s something you want. But the real issue is general fitness. That’s why the focus isn’t on calories burned or intensity but just on being active. A shocking number of Americans have absolutely no regular activity in their lives. The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award is part of the President’s Challenge Program by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, which has been attacking this issue on multiple fronts. This challenge is just one way.

You might ask what this has to do with spiritual practices. I’ve written here many times about things that aren’t directly spiritual. For example, getting enough sleep, spending time in nature, eating regular and balanced meals. All these things, and regular exercise as well, help you to stay healthy, balanced and available to the spiritual dimension of life. If you are hungry, tired, cranky, uncomfortable, it is much harder to hear God’s “still small voice.”

So if you’re so inspired, or if you’re even tempted, join me! Go sign up for this thing. Make the commitment to be just a little more active for the next six weeks. You may not want to go back. Once you’ve signed up and signed in, then join our group. This link, https://www.presidentschallenge.org/activity/groups-home.php?groupNumber=935845, will take you to the Busted Halo page, or you can find us by searching for “Team Busted Halo” or group #935845.