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*This is part 9 of 9 from The Urban Difference: Report 2019

Exercise helps to extend life by improving mental and physical well-being.

Improving Physical and Mental Well-Being

Americans are not fond of exercising. In fact, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) estimates that only 1 in 3 kids and only 5% of adults engage in some form of exercise daily. Furthermore, at least 80% of adults are not meeting DHHS’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, particularly when it comes to aerobic exercise that gets the heart pumping. Muscle strengthening exercises are also important for greater coordination and endurance. Both forms of exercise, aerobic and muscle toning, are ideal for weight loss and will improve mental health, strengthen bones and muscles, reduce risks associated with chronic diseases, and improve poor sleeping habits. 

Since its inception, the Urban SNAP-Ed: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education has taught Alabamians the importance of not only eating healthy, but adding physical activity to their daily lives. In 2019, after completing 10 hours of training, post-assessments indicated that daily physical activity among 1,538 adults increased 28% from 62% to 90%, and by 35% among 2,227 youth from 55% to 90%.

Good health strategies like eating a healthy diet and exercising can improve quality of life.

Hypertension: The Silent Killer

High blood pressure or hypertension is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” because typical signs or symptoms do not occur. Hypertension is the second leading cause of kidney disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only 1 in 4 Americans have their high blood pressure under control. In Alabama, 21.1% of individuals aged 18-44 have high blood pressure. Among persons aged 45-64 the rate is 53.1% and 67.3% among adults age 65 and older. Many health experts recommend eating a healthy diet and engaging in exercise to reduce hypertension rates, as well as taking medication,
if prescribed.

The CHAMPION: Community Health Aerobic and Motivational Program Initiating Optimal Nutrition is designed to improve eating habits, encourage physical activity, and improve health literacy. In 2019, 423 individuals completed the CHAMPION series. While post-test surveys indicated that participants changed their eating habits, data collected among 148 adults also indicated that at least 107 (72%) began to engage in 30 or more minutes of physical activity per day. Seventy-five (51%) engaged in moderate aerobic activities 4-5 days per week for 30-60 minutes. One hundred fifteen (78%) adults engaged in strength training 2-3 days per week for 30-60 minutes.

Last year, the program also started a campaign called Walking Like a CHAMPION to encourage people to walk as a daily form of exercise. Since December 2020, approximately 2,000 people have joined the Walking Like a CHAMPION initiative.

2019 References

In addition to specialist reports, the following references were used.

  • Act, Inc., “Career Planning: Students Need Help Starting Early and Staying Focused,” last modified 2005, https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED510441.pdf.
  • Alabama Department of Public Health, “High Blood Pressure,” last modified February 28, 2020, https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/cardio/high-bp.html.
  • Annie E. Casey Foundation, “Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters,” last modified 2010, https://www.ccf.ny.gov/files/9013/8262/2751/AECFReporReadingGrade3.pdf.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Hypertension,” last modified September 8, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm.
  • Experian, “Debt Reaches New Highs in 2019, but Credit Scores Stay Strong,” last modified 2021, https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/research/consumer-debt-study/.
  • Anne Jolly, “7 Reasons Why Real-World STEM Education Matters to Alabama Students,” last modified August 5, 2016, https://aplusala.org/best-practices-center/2016/08/05/why-real-world-stem-ed-matters/.
  • KForce, Inc., “The Ultimate STEM Career Guide,” last modified 2021, https://www.kforce.com/stem-guide/.
  • Medline Plus, “Benefits of Exercise,” last modified December 2, 2020, https://medlineplus.gov/benefitsofexercise.html.
  • Sam Mehmet, “FDA, EPA and USDA launch GMO education initiative,” last modified March 5, 2020, https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/106855/fda-epa-and-usda-launch-gmo-education-initiative/.
  • Dian Schaffhauser, “Report: Career Planning Needs to Start in Middle School,” last modified April 6, 2019, https://thejournal.com/articles/2019/05/06/report-career-planning-needs-to-start-in-middle-school.aspx.
  • Purdue University, “Why do we use GMOs?,” last modified 2021, https://ag.purdue.edu/GMOs/Pages/WhyGMOs.aspx.
  • TIAA Institute, “The 2020 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index: Executive Summary,” last modified 2020, https://www.tiaainstitute.org/about/news/2020-tiaa-institute-gflec-personal-finance-index-executive-summary.
  • United Health Foundation, “High Blood Pressure,” last modified 2019, https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/annual/measure/Hypertension/state/AL?edition-year=2019.
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services, “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition,” last modified 2018, https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf.
  • United States Food and Drug Administration, “How GMO Crops Impact Our World,” last modified September 28, 2020, https://www.fda.gov/food/agricultural-biotechnology/how-gmo-crops-impact-our-world.

Special thanks to program partners, participants, Alabama Extension staff, and other valuable stakeholders who make our work possible.

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Continue To

Part 1 – The Urban Difference: Report 2019, From the Administrators
Part 2 – The Urban Difference: Report 2019, Alabama 4-H and Youth Development
Part 3 – The Urban Difference: Report 2019, Animal Science and Forages
Part 4 – The Urban Difference: Report 2019, Community Resource Development
Part 5 – The Urban Difference: Report 2019, Consumer Sciences and Personal Financial Management
Part 6 – The Urban Difference: Report 2019, Family and Child Development
Part 7 – The Urban Difference: Report 2019, Forestry, Wildlife, and Natural Resources
Part 8 – The Urban Difference: Report 2019, Home Grounds, Gardens and Home Pests
Part 9 – The Urban Difference: Report 2019, Human Nutrition, Diet and Health


Download a PDF of The Urban Difference: Report 2019, UNP-2175. 

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