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collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-03</hide>March 2015 ‎(3)
3/25/2015 9:06 AM

kicks4kids.jpgIn Alaska, where the ground is often buried in snow or slick with ice, some kids come to school wearing shoes that are duct-taped together.

Two boys want to play for the school basketball team. The trick is they both can’t play at the same time, because they need to share the same pair of shoes.
A coach knows that if he doesn’t buy shoes for his athletes, he won’t have enough kids to make up a team.
Colleen Franks had heard all these stories from Alaska schools and knew something had to be done to put shoes — shoes that fit right and protect the feet — on all children going to school. That’s how Franks, a business owner in Anchorage, started working with schools districts, businesses and partners throughout Alaska to create the nonprofit shoe recycling program called Kicks for Kids.
“It’s been three years, and we’ve given out close to 3,000 pairs of shoes now from preschool through 12th (grade),” Franks said.
“There are schools where we are trying to get shoes and boots on every kid,” Franks said. “The need is ridiculously high.”
Franks and her family run Aurora Kids Gymnastics for young children in Anchorage. Her goal is to provide opportunities for sports, and overall fitness, to Alaska kids.
“When I started to realize that so many kids were having difficulty participating because they didn’t have the proper shoes, it really bothered me,” she said.
Franks received support from the Anchorage School District. This school year, Aquarian Charter School in Anchorage donated one pair of shoes for each student enrolled at the school, Franks said. Franks also partners with an Alaska nonprofit organization called “The Basics,” which helps raise funds to support Kicks for Kids.
Each Anchorage school and some schools in other Alaska school districts now have buckets to collect shoes that can be shared with children in need. Parents and others can donate shoes, rain boots and winter boots that their children have outgrown. If teachers notice a child in need, they can pull a pair of shoes from their school’s bucket and put them on the child right there. When buckets overflow with shoes, Franks collects them, brings them home, washes them and creates an inventory for other schools that need more shoes than they have in their buckets.
Franks said the Kicks for Kids team of volunteers brought 250 pairs to 18 different schools during a recent week. The program also sent dozens of shoes to Kenai schools. Kicks for Kids is sharing shoes with children in other communities, too, including Eagle River, Dillingham, Fairbanks, even Anaktuvuk Pass.
“The goal is we go statewide,” Franks said.
Kicks for Kids also partners with businesses, like Skinny Raven Sports in Anchorage.
“We’re all about trying to promote healthy lifestyles,” said John Clark, who handles the store’s purchasing. Skinny Raven asks Kicks for Kids to stop by frequently to pick up shoes for children in need.
The store donates used shoes from its customers, last year’s models of sneakers, returned shoes, even demo shoes that are often used just a few times and are still in great shape.
Franks said she often hears how grateful the children are for the new shoes.
“These are the best shoes the kids have ever had,” she said.
Kicks for Kids shoes go to kids who need them to participate in school track and sports teams, but they also go to kids who just need something to protect their growing feet. To help Kicks for Kids, parents can add their children’s outgrown shoes to buckets in schools in Anchorage and other communities. Franks said the program takes all shoes and boots, no matter how beaten up they are from use – “Nothing goes to waste.” People also can donate to The Basics to support programs like Kicks for Kids. To learn more, visit Kicks for Kids on Facebook.
* Photo courtesy of the Kicks for Kids program.
3/17/2015 11:51 AM

So, you read our blog about the importance of reading the ingredient lists on the foods and drinks you consume. Now you’ve decided to start keeping track of your sugar intake by keeping an eye on those nutrition labels.Nutrition_label.JPG

But, wait.
That bowl of granola you had for breakfast — the one made with all natural ingredients, the one with nuts and flax seeds—can contain 14 grams of sugar.
That drink you had for lunch — the one loaded with protein and made with all organic ingredients — that protein drink can contain 12 grams of sugar.
A 12-ounce can of regular cola contains 39 grams of sugar.
The problem is “grams” doesn’t really mean that much to us. How much is 12 grams of sugar?
Here’s a simple mathematical formula that can help you manage the amount of “hidden” sugar you consume every day. It converts grams to teaspoons — the unit of measure we’re more familiar with in the kitchen.
By dividing the total grams of sugar by four, you get the number of teaspoons. So, for example, four grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon of sugar — about the same amount found in most sugar packets. tsp_sugar_small.jpg
Even if you don’t sprinkle any additional sugar on your bowl of granola, it can already contain three and a half teaspoons of sugar (14 grams). You’d never add three and a half teaspoons of sugar to a bowl of cereal, but it’s in there already. Your lunchtime protein drink contains three teaspoons of added sugar (12 grams), and a can of cola contains just almost 10 teaspoons of added sugar (39 grams).
Get your kids involved in doing the math on their foods and drinks. They can learn how to find those hidden sugars and add them up.
3/3/2015 4:21 PM

Buying healthy drinks for your family can be very confusing. That’s because the words you may find on the front of a bottle don’t always tell you what’s in the drink. They don’t tell you about the large amount of sugar that can be hiding inside.

Pick up a bottle of a sugary drink and the front label may use words that make the drink sound healthy: Father Shopping Ad 140605 Sagaya's City Market-0195 web250x.jpg
“Loaded with vitamins.”
“All natural flavors.”
The key is to check the back of the bottle. That’s typically where you’ll find the drink’s nutritional label and ingredient list.
This is the main message in Play Every Day’s new public service announcement running on TV stations in communities across Alaska. The PSA features a dad shopping in a grocery store with his children. When the kids pull a powdered drink and a vitamin-enhanced drink from the store shelf, the dad turns the bottles around and shows them the ingredient list. If sweeteners are listed as one of the first three ingredients, the drink is loaded with sugar.
When you’re looking for sugar on the ingredient list, watch out for other words. Sweeteners go by many names, including common ones like honey and syrup, as well as high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, dextrose and fruit nectar.
Next time you shop with your children, look for sodas, powdered drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks on the shelves. Turn the bottles around and show your kids the ingredient lists. Help them find the added sugars and ask them if these sugars are listed among the first three ingredients.
Your kids will become smart shoppers and smart consumers. By choosing to buy and drink water and low-fat or fat-free milk, you are teaching your children about the importance of healthy drinks.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-02</hide>February 2015 ‎(2)
2/25/2015 9:57 AM

When you send kids outside to play at recess, they know what to do, right?

They know to be active, have a good time, include everyone else in the game?

Baranof Elementary School, a Sitka school that teaches about 250 preschool through first-grade students, started a structured recess program in the fall of 2013 because staff realized that not all children knew what to do on the playground, or how to start up games with other kids. Ramon Quevedo, student success coordinator with the Sitka School District, said most of the referrals to the principal’s office came from conflicts on the playground. Conflicts that started on the playground would come into the classroom, making it difficult for the children to learn, he said. RecessPhotoPED.jpg

To help children play and reduce behavior problems, Sitka used federal grant funding to hire a nonprofit organization called Playworks to visit the Sitka school and help staff and students start organized play. By the end of the 2013-14 school year, Baranof saw a 50 percent reduction in playground-related behavior referrals, Quevedo said.

Playworks’ mission is that every child can play, every day. “On our playgrounds, everyone plays, everyone belongs and everyone contributes to the game,” said the Playworks website. Staff from Playworks visit schools like Baranof Elementary to train school staff on how to run an organized recess program and teach safe games that any child is able to play.

Quevedo said the Playworks rules on the playground are simple: “Be respectful. Be safe. Have fun.”

Kids are encouraged to make new friends while they are learning new games, he said. Playworks uses simple tools like rock-paper-scissors to help children settle conflicts. Playworks encourages adults on the playground to get out and play with the kids, not just stand and watch.

When recess is over, a staff member blows a whistle and everyone stands still, Quevedo said.

“It’s just an easy way for them to transition and get ready to come back to the classroom,” he said. At Baranof, they call its “Freeze, Knees” — when all the kids stop moving and grab their knees. Then they high-five the kids who have been playing with them.

“It’s something really simple,” Quevedo said. “It’s really contagious. They just love to give high-fives.”

The Sitka School District is one of eight districts across Alaska that received a grant from the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity options for students. Playworks has been so successful at improving physical activity at Baranof Elementary that the Sitka School District completed another Playworks training session for Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary, the school that teaches grades 2 through 5 in Sitka, Quevedo said.

2/11/2015 9:11 AM

Looking for fun ways to get your kids active this month? Clear your calendar on Saturday, February 28, because there are two family events in the Anchorage area.

Ski4Kids 2014 045 cropped resized.jpgSign up your children for the annual Ski 4 Kids event at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. Children through age 14 can participate in a 3K timed or untimed ski race, and parents are welcome to ski along, too. Every child finishes with a medal. Children can also try snowshoeing, orienteering, obstacle courses and more. Indoor events at the chalet and outdoor events in the park start at 12:30 p.m. The ski race begins at 1:30 p.m.Ski4Kids 2014 042 resized single skier.jpg

Families can register for Ski 4 Kids online, or register the day of the event. There is no set participant fee, but donations are recommended. Proceeds benefit the Anchorage Parks and Recreation’s ski outreach program and a Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage grant program that provides ski equipment to schools and youth organizations.

Got a costume and no place to wear it? Put it on and join the Frostbite Footrace and Costume Fun Run February 28 in downtown Anchorage. The Fur Rondy event is designed for “hardy” Alaskans prepared for any weather. People of all ages and abilities can sign up for 5K or 2K fun runs that start at 9:30 a.m. The race course begins near the Fifth Avenue Skywalk and ends at Sixth Avenue and H Street. Register for the footrace online before February 25; the registration fee for children is at a lower rate. Participants also can register the morning of the race.

Which event will you choose? The good news is you can do both. With the Frostbite Footrace in the morning and the Ski 4 Kids in the afternoon, you can get out and play all day.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2015-01</hide>January 2015 ‎(3)
1/27/2015 1:02 PM

Guest blog by Shelley Romer, the elementary school program coordinator for Healthy Futures.

It’s been an exciting first half of the 2014/15 school year for
Healthy Futures.

Our program had a record number of students from 173 Alaska schools participate in the Fall 2014 Healthy Futures Challenge — nearly 18,500 kids, in fact. The Spring Healthy Futures Challenge starts this Sunday, Feb. 1. We already have 188 schools signed up with an open invitation for more.

As the new ElemShellyRomerJanBlog.jpegentary School Program Coordinator for Healthy Futures, I have been pleased to see how hard-working and enthusiastic everyone has been in raising the bar to develop the habit of daily physical activity. So many people have contributed to getting Alaska children physically active by keeping track of activity logs, entering data into the Healthy Futures database, and distributing prizes. It’s a lot of work, but we have teachers, community members, and parents who go above and beyond what it takes to help get kids excited about being active and healthy.

It helps to have amazing Alaska athletes cheering kids on. We kicked off this school year by supporting the Anchorage School District’s elementary school Jamborees. Our Healthy Heroes — Olympians Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks, the APU Nordic Ski Team, the UAA Cross Country Running Team, and many other local athletes — made the events even more special by providing some truly inspiring and motivating energy. It was amazing to stand in front of a group of kids who had just warmed up with our Healthy Heroes and were ready to get the race started. Then… they were off!! 

Determination and gumption flew by as kids ran toward the finish line. Regardless of whether they finished first or last, thousands of kids were giving it everything they had while being cheered on by the crowd and our local athletes. 

Here at Healthy Futures, we definitely practice what we teach. I enjoy rock climbing, hiking, running, skiing of all kinds, playing outside with my nieces and nephews, and just getting outside to walk and clear my head or catch up with friends and family. My coworkers are amazing mountain runners, triathletes, skiers, and people who just like to get out and move. We know the importance of integrating activity into our daily lives, but we also know how fun it is, the benefits of challenging ourselves, how much better we feel when we move, and how great it is to be a part of a community.

We know that research shows a link between the lack of activity and health-related problems like obesity and diabetes. With so many things pointing to more sedentary lifestyles, it can seem a little daunting to address these issues, but kids are meant to move and they love to move. It is up to us to provide and support an environment that promotes what they do naturally.

Please join us and support your children and your students as they participate in the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge and get out and play, every day.

1/20/2015 2:19 PM

More than 300 miles up the Glenn Highway from Anchorage, a school district greenhouse promises a bounty of healthy produce for hundreds of Alaska school children.

The Alaska Gateway School District built the 33- by 96-foot greenhouse in Tok to grow and supply produce to all seven schools in the district. The district serves 370 students in Tok, Dot Lake, Eagle, Tetlin, Tanacross, Mentasta Lake and Northway. AK Gateway greenhouse.jpeg

The greenhouse project – funded through several sources, including district funds, a legislative appropriation and a federal U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm-to-School grant – reduces the amount of food the schools need to import and transport.

“Having it locally has made a big difference in how fresh the food is,” said Bonnie Emery, Alaska Gateway’s horticulturist.

Emery said the first planting went in the greenhouse in the spring of 2014, the year after its construction. The interior space allows her to grow fruits and vegetables in Interior Alaska almost all year. This year, she grew strawberries, melons, spinach, kale, different types of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, beans, snap peas and more.

“I still have things growing in the greenhouse,” said Emery in December when she was still growing spinach, tomatoes, turnip greens and celery.

The Biomass Heating Plant in Tok uses trees removed to prevent wildfires to heat and power Tok School, including the greenhouse, which also runs additional heaters and grow lights to continue gardening through the winter.  “At this point, it’s sort of an experiment to see how far we can go,” said Emery.

In January, greenGreenhouse3 resized.jpghouse staff reported that temperatures in Tok dipped to minus 40 degrees, and yet the greens, spinach and celery inside the greenhouse stayed alive.

Needless to say, the Alaska Gateway greenhouse also provides an ongoing learning opportunity. Students at Tok School start seeds in the classroom and transplant them to the greenhouse, and all district students can tour the greenhouse to learn how fruits and vegetables are planted, harvested and then served at schools, said Scott MacManus, assistant superintendent for the district. “All the kids from the whole district will do field trips to the school and go to the greenhouse and see how it works,” he noted.

MacManus said the district would like to work with the state’s university system to start an arctic agriculture program that focuses on what grows best in northern communities like Tok. Alaska Gateway is one of eight school districts across Alaska that received a grant from the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity options for students.

For more information about Alaska Gateway’s greenhouse, visit


Photos courtesy of Alaska Gateway School District

1/13/2015 3:04 PM

If it comes from fruit, it must be healthy, right? When eating fresh, raw fruit, then yes, absolutely.

But not when drinking 100 percent fruit juice, which lacks much of the fiber and nutrients that makes fruit healthy for us in the first place: 

Fruit juice “is just aGlassesJuice.jpgs full of calories as the whole food but filters out lots of the fiber and micro-nutrients and delivers all the sugar and calories in liquid form that does not make you feel full,” said Dr. Susan Beesley, a pediatrician with the Anchorage Pediatric Group. “Also, juice is horrible for teeth. Because of its sugar content, it causes lots of cavities, especially if it is used as a drink that is available to children constantly throughout the day or night.”

Too much 100 percent fruit juice, along with other sugary drinks, contributes to obesity and tooth decay in Alaska — where one out of three Alaska children is overweight or obese and cavity rates are high.

People “think that since fruit is healthy, fruit juice must also be healthy,” said Beesley. Plus, “kids tend to like juice (because it is so sugary), so parents think they are giving something healthy to their kids that they also like.”

Some juices contain nearly as much sugar as soda, with as much as 16 teaspoons in a 20-ounce portion, or nearly twice the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended maximum of eight teaspoons of added sugar a day for the average adult. Plus, Beesley added, kids who get in a routine of consuming sugary juices can carry that habit over their lifetimes by drinking other sugary drinks, like soda, sports drinks or energy drinks.

Studies show that consuming added sugars can lead to unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. That’s why pediatricians recommend water as the default drink for kids, with fat-free and low-fat milk as nutritional alternatives. GRC42546-Beesley Susan.jpg

 “I do not think kids should drink any juice,” said Beesley, “but if they must, it should be given in a small volume with a meal.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 to 6 ounces (1/2 to ¾ cup) of 100% fruit juice per day for young children. Beesley also discourages serving sugar-free juices or alternatives “because I think they will get kids used to drinking sweet beverages.”

(Photo courtesy Dr. Susan Beesley)

Otherways to limit juice consumption include making it available only on special occasions, like when traveling by plane or when going out to dinner. Diluting juice with water helps reduce sugar intake, but it still means saturating teeth in sugar, said Beesley.

By not buying and serving juice at home and limiting consumption elsewhere, parents help kids establish good habits for drinking water and maintaining a healthy weight. Healthy kids should drink two cups of fat-free or low fat milk each day and lots of water, nothing more.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-12</hide>December 2014 ‎(4)
12/30/2014 1:22 PM

Science tells us that too much added sugar can lead to unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and other unhealthy outcomes, even in young children. Eating and drinking added sugar contributes to obesity and comes at a significant price: Alaska spends about $459 million a year on obesity-related medical expenses, and the cost to our children’s health impacts their quality of life.

What can we do to help our children build a healthy foundation?

Well, our kids learn their habits from us. They do what we do. The best way to get them to play outside is to go outside with them. The best way to get them to eat right is to eat healthy meals beside them. And since Americans consume nearly half their added sugar from sugary drinks, the easiest and most effective way to cut down on added sugar is to stop drinking them.

“If you or your child drinks just one can of soda a day, you or he will drink more than 3,500 teaspoons of added sugar by the end of the year,” noted Diane Peck, a public health nutritionist with the Obesity Prevention and Control Program in the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “That’s more than 30 pounds of sugar.”

In the health department’s new public service announcement called It Starts With Me, a mother reflects on how her habits influence her daughter’s: “At first I didn’t think how my soda habit could affect her health, but when I noticed the extra pounds I put on due to my daily habit, and that I’m putting myself at risk for diabetes and heart disease, I began to wonder… what are sugary drinks doing to her?”

Beverages like soda, sports and energy drinks, vitamin-enhanced drinks, fruit-flavored or powdered drinks, and sweetened teas, coffees and milks add sugars and calories with little or no nutrients. Some of these drinks can contain as much as 16 teaspoons of sugar in just 20 ounces, twice the maximum amount of added sugar (8 teaspoons) recommended for the average adult by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Want your kids to stay healthy? Start by reducing or eliminating the sugary drinks you buy, serve and consume. After all, good health habits start with you.

12/22/2014 3:01 PM

Holiday potlucks and break room goodies can add to our waistlines, but wrapping ourselves in festive coats and ugly sweaters only skirts the truth – that during the holidays, we often exceed our fuel needs with a heavy dose of added sugar. 

Consider a holiday favorite, the 16-ounce whole-milk eggnog latte, which weighs in at 460 calories, 22 grams of fat and 6 teaspoons of added sugar.

“That is very similar to a milkshake at most fast food restaurants,” said Diane Peck, a public health nutritionist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “In comparison, a non-ALatte.12.23.14.jpgfat latte only has 130 calories, no fat and no added sugar.” 

Plus, the sugar in liquids hits the blood stream faster and leads to cravings for more, said Rikki Keen, an adjunct professor for the Department of Health, Physical Education & Recreation at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“I think people don’t realize that you’re not going to feel full when you drink things,” she said. “Liquids just don’t do that. Those drinks have no fiber, so you’re setting yourself up for another sugar fix soon after.”

Keen, who also works as the team dietician for the UAA Seawolves and an exercise physiologist for other organizations, noted a growing body of science surrounding the impact of sugar on the body. “It should be a real turnaround for folks,” Keen explained. “People will begin to realize that sugar’s not good for the heart, that it contributes to low grade inflammation that leads to a laundry list of disease states that we’re just now finding out.”

So how do you keep the balance in a season of sugar plums and hot cocoa? For starters, said Peck, continue to stay active. (Adults should shoot for at least 2.5 hours of physical activity a week and kids should get physically active 60 minutes a day, every day.) Also, keep eating low calorie foods and drinks like water and fruits and vegetables.

Before going to parties or events, said Keen, eat something nutritious to avoid feeling hungry when walking by the sweet tables.

Most important, commit yourself to tracking what you eat. Grab a notebook, create a document, or upload a free app to log what you consume. Apps work well because they break down the nutritional content of everything you eat and tally the totals.

When you really know what you eat and drink, “it becomes the reality the next day and forces you to be much more aware and accountable,” said Keen.

Do athletes, dieticians and nutritionists partake in holiday sweets now and again? Absolutely, but they do so with intention.

“My go-to treat is my own coffee and I add a bit of regular sugar, milk and whey protein,” said Keen. Other options include going with low or no fat milk and asking for just one shot of syrup.

Peck indulges in holiday treats occasionally, too, but she balances it out with lower calorie drinks “like hot spice tea, no sugar, sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, or a small ‘skinny tan hot cocoa, no whip.’”

As for the best drink for health and hydration, whatever the season, they agree: Water.

12/8/2014 12:50 PM

Do you feel inspired by people who set a goal and stick with it until they reach it?

If so, let us introduce you to our partner in physical activity — Healthy Futures. This program has gone from a homegrown effort to get families active to a statewide effort that runs a school-based physical activity challenge motivating thousands of elementary children tHealthy_Futures_Logo_Dec.11.2013.jpgo get active every day.

To support Healthy Futures, Play Every Day urges schools to sign up for the Healthy Futures Challenge and help us reach a significant benchmark:  We have set a goal of getting 200 public elementary schools in Alaska — that’s half — signed up for the spring physical activity challenge in 2015. Schools can sign up for the Challenge now through Dec. 19 at

Reaching this goal will be a remarkable achievement. About 10 years ago, Healthy Futures started with just two Anchorage parents — the late Bonny Sosa Young and Sam Young — who were concerned about the growing obesity problem in Alaska. (One out of 3 Alaska children is overweight or obese.) The couple wanted to improve the health of Alaska children by empowering them to build the habit of daily physical activity. ActiveKidsHealthyFutures10.9.14.jpg

They worked at home and then a small staff joined the program to support low-cost and no-cost physical activity events for families. The program also developed a simple, free physical activity challenge for Alaska elementary schools and students.

Play Every Day got involved three years ago as a partner by supporting the Healthy Futures Challenge with annual funding and promotional resources. The Play Every Day campaign is part of the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.

Since this partnership, school and student involvement has grown. In the spring of 2011, 36 Alaska elementary schools and 1,342 children participated in the Healthy Futures Challenge; by fall 2014, over 170 schools and 18,000 kids participated — that’s 1 in 4 public elementary students in Alaska.

Healthy Futures now has other financial supporters, too, like Providence Health & Services Alaska, the United Way of Anchorage, ConocoPhillips, and the Alaska Kidney Foundation.

Schools all over Alaska can sign up now for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge, which will run in February, March and April, 2015. The free, fun challenge rewards students with incentives for being active while giving schools with high student participation small cash grants toward physical activity equipment.

We’re so close to our goal of 200 schools — 173 Alaska schools participated in the Fall 2014 Challenge — and we encourage you to support your kids and schools by asking your schools to sign up for the Healthy Futures Challenge. Parents can also volunteer to help children fill out their physical activity logs and help the school fill in the participation database and turn it in to Healthy Futures each month. They can help hand out prizes to the students when they’ve met their physical activity goals.

It’s no longer just two parents working to help Alaska children be healthier. It’s all of us.

12/2/2014 1:43 PM

Many drinks contain added sugars, but knowing how much and in what form can prove tricky when looking at labels. Whether organic or pure, syrup or concentrate, solid or raw, sweeteners of all kinds add sugar to our diets and behave the same way in our bodies.

The liquid sweeteners in sugary drinks lack fiber and move into the bloodstream quickly, and this sugar overload can impact the body’s organs and lead to serious diseases overNutrition Word Cloud No Red 250x250.jpg time.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a maximum of eight teaspoons of added sugar a day for the average adult on a diet of 2,000 calories, but a single 20-ounce bottle of soda contains twice that much. American children and adults consume more than two times the recommended maximum amount of added sugars each day, and nearly half that sugar comes from sodas, sports drink, energy drinks, powdered drinks and fruit-flavored drinks.


How can you avoid these added sugars?


First, read the ingredient list. If a sweetener is listed as one of the first three ingredients, the drink is loaded with sugar.


Second, know how to find sugar by any other name, including these:


·        Agave Nectar

·        Barley malt

·        Cane sugar

·        Corn syrup

·        Corn syrup solids

·        Crystalline fructose

·        Dextrose

·        Evaporated cane juice

·        Fructose

·        Fruit juice concentrate

·        Fruit nectar

·        Galactose

·        Glucose

·        High-fructose corn syrup

·        Glucose-fructose syrup

·        Honey

·        Maltose

·        Malt syrup

·        Maple syrup

·        Molasses

·        Brown rice syrup

·        Sucrose


Finally, convert the grams of sugar listed on the nutrition facts label into teaspoons. Simply divide the total number of grams of sugar by four to get the number of teaspoons per serving. If a sugary drink label says it has 64 grams per serving, that’s 16 teaspoons of sugar – twice the recommended daily intake of sugar for the average adult.  


Keep in mind that many store bought drinks contain more than one serving. If the bottle contains two servings, multiply the number of grams of sugar per serving by two and then divide the total by four. A sugary drink with 32 grams of sugar per serving and two servings per container contains 64 grams or 16 teaspoons of sugar in the entire bottle.


Why not choose healthy drinks instead?

collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-11</hide>November 2014 ‎(3)
11/25/2014 3:10 PM

Sugary drinks come in bright packages with labels that claim all sorts of things — “loaded with vitamins,” “hydrating,” “all natural flavors.”


What they really contain is added sugar and lots of it —16 teaspoons in a 20-ounce soda or fruit-flavored drink. Studies show that consuming added sugars can lead to unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay.


“Kids can fill up on these drinks rather than on healthier foods and drinks,” said Karol Fink, manager of the Obesity Prevention and Control Program, the Alaska Division of Public Health. “Those sugars and calories add up.”


A recent survey of Alaska high school students shows that those who report a high consumption of sugary drinks are more likely to be overweight or obese than their peers. One out of three Alaska children is overweight or obese – and obese kids tend to grow up to be obese adults.


The health costs add up. Alaska spends about $459 million every year on obesity-related medical expenses, according to a recent analysis, and the impact on work productivity, social and emotional health, and the health habits of future generations only increases the public health toll.


What you drink is as important as what you eat when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and developing healthy habits. Water hydrates our bodies efficiently, contains no calories and no added sugars, and is often more convenient and affordable than other drinks. Milk adds calories, but provides essential vitamins and nutrients.


Next time you sit at the family table this holiday season, talk turkey to your kids about how much sugar is hidden in sugary drinks. For the best health, serve water or milk. Get the facts on sugary drinks at Play Every Day.

11/18/2014 12:13 PM

Looking for fun ways to play and motivation for getting physically active? Check out the 11 entries to the 2014 Play Every Day student video contest. This fall, kids from seven elementary schools in four school districts submitted short videos telling the story of play through images of kids jumping, sledding, climbing, skiing, running, and throwing balls.

 SalchaPSA 2014-11-14 Blizzard250x250.jpg

Salcha Elementary School won first place with a video showing kids sledding, skiing and going down slides while singing, “Twinkle, twinkle play outside, outside in the northern lights.” The short clip includes a comical twist about the weather and supports the message of physical activity. “How do you play?” the children ask. “It doesn’t matter what you do, just get outside and play every day.”


Ronda Schlumbohm, the sponsoring teacher of the winning team, said, “I love to let my students have the opportunity to say what they think and to get out a message. We do believe in getting outside and playing every day, because lots of brain research has been done in this area that proves that getting out is beneficial for children.”


Her 2nd/3rd grade class at Salcha, one of the smallest schools in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, won by coupling playfulness with zeal.


The creative process began when Mariko Kinikin, a district technology teacher, shared the technical requirements with students and helped them look for and define the elements of a good public service announcement (PSA), explained Schlumbohm. Kinikin talked to the class about the different ways to approach a PSA, such as humor, song and a straightforward message.


“The funny thing is that when we put it together, we did all three,” said Schlumbohm.


Kinikin also helped a 5th and 6th grade class at Salcha research and edit another video that tied for third place. Students started by looking at PSAs and then developed scripts, learned how to shoot film with iPads, and filmed and assessed four pilot PSAs, said Matt Anderson, the sponsoring teacher. After collectively choosing the strongest PSA, they re-shot it with a better camera.


“It was great to watch my students find workable solutions to some of the same problems that I had when I was first starting out,” said Anderson. “This process illustrates what can happen when children are given tools and expectations and then, with proper scaffolding, allowed to solve their own problems. This project was a first step.  I have no doubt that we will be doing more with video as the year progresses and I am really looking forward to it.”


Academy Charter School from the Mat-Su Borough School District won second place and Polaris K-12 from the Anchorage School District tied with Salcha for third place.


All 26 fifth-graders from the Academy class made their own videos from the same raw footage, said Julie Real, one of the sponsoring teachers. In doing so, they touched on technology, writing and public speaking. The class then decided on the four best videos and submitted them.


At Polaris, Corey Aist’s class of 4th and 5th graders practiced how to work together to accomplish a specific task, while he and a volunteer parent assisted. “They were excited,” he said. “They brainstormed, created a plan and story map, and wrote the script. Later, we helped edit it down to the 25 second limit.”


All PSA contest entries were due Oct. 31 and were free to submit. Students were instructed to show how children get out and play or complete the Healthy Futures Challenge, a physical activity program in more than 170 elementary schools across the state.


The contest received videos from Polaris and Lake Otis Elementary from the Anchorage School District, Academy and Trapper Creek from the Mat-Su Borough School District, Salcha and Chinook Charter from the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and Fort Yukon from the Yukon Flats School District.


Staff from Play Every Day and Healthy Futures voted on the winning entries by looking at creativity, technical quality, school and community activities represented, following the contest rules, and overall presentation.


Salcha will receive a $500 gift card to purchase physical activity equipment for all students, plus $25 gift cards for up to 10 students who created the video to purchase physical activity equipment. Everyone involved in making the videos will get Play Every Day T-shirts. In addition, Play Every Day plans to share the winning video through social media and TV.


The Play Every Day campaign has posted all of the submitted school videos on its YouTube channel, and will be sharing a number of them through its Facebook page.

11/5/2014 2:45 PM

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Just how much sugar can be hiding in a 20-ounce bottle of soda?
You can show the answer in teaspoons of sugar –16 or more – or by using an easily recognizable food comparison: One 20-ounce bottle of soda could contain as much sugar as 16 chocolate mini doughnuts.
With that in mind, Play Every Day launched its new public education campaign on sugary drinks this month with a TV public service announcement, printed posters for schools and health clinics, a new website and a school lesson plan that uses the doughnut and soda comparison to shine a spotlight on the large amount of sugar hidden in many types of sugary drinks.
The point is to bring attention to the amount of added sugar Alaska families drink when they serve soda or fruit-flavored, powdered, sports, energy and even vitamin-enhanced drinks during meals and snacks. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, added sugars contribute about 16 percent of the total calories in American diets, and almost half of that comes from sugary drinks.
The campaign goes beyond raising awareness and inspires families to reduce the amount of sugar sweetened beverages served to children. Sugary drinks contribute to a number of serious health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. In Alaska, one out of three children is overweight or obese; and two out of three adults are overweight or obese. 
For the first three years of the Play Every Day campaign, the primary focus has been on the importance of daily physical activity for the best health and maintaining a healthy weight. Campaign messages have promoted at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day for children and participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge – a free school-based physical activity challenge that’s now in about 160 elementary schools across Alaska.
The campaign will continue to focus on the health benefits of physical activity while also working toward reducing the consumption of sugary drinks and promoting water and fat-free or low-fat milk as the healthiest drink options for Alaska children and their families.
Staff from the Play Every Day campaign and state Obesity Prevention and Control Program will visit Spring Hill Elementary in Anchorage on November 6 and Two Rivers Elementary near Fairbanks on November 10 to share the new sugary drinks lesson plan with health and physical education classes.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-10</hide>October 2014 ‎(3)
10/22/2014 9:25 AM

If you’re a third grader at Seward Elementary, you will have physical education class on Monday.
You’ll have it on Tuesday, too. And again Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
In fact, by the enMark Fraad Seward250x250.jpgd of the week, all students in grades 3 to 5 at Seward’s only elementary school will have 30 minutes of PE, five days a week, meeting the recommended 150 weekly minutes of PE for elementary-age children. When you add in the morning and lunch recess time, Seward’s children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity for good health – all before they leave school at the end of the day.
That makes Seward a standout school for the amount of PE and activity children get every day. Seward Elementary has only one PE teacher for the whole school – Mark Fraad. So how does one teacher provide PE instruction to hundreds of kids every day of the week? Fraad explained how the whole school worked together during the 2005-06 school year to make PE a priority.
Back then, Seward Elementary offered only two or three PE classes a week, each 30 minutes long, for students in all grades. That is still the case for grades K-2, but the staff wanted to offer daily PE to grades 3-5.
Fraad said the teachers and Principal David Kingsland – who remains the principal today –looked at research showing that children do better academically when they are active in structured (PE classes) and unstructured (recess) ways and that their behavior improves, too.
The school’s staff knew they wanted to give the older children more PE time each week, so they asked themselves what they could change to make that happen.
Fraad said they agreed to compromises. School staff moved lunch into the classrooms to free up the gym for one or two more PE periods each day. Fraad took on more PE classes daily, too, and now teaches 10 to 11 thirty-minute PE periods a day.
“Our gym is always full,” he said. “We always have kids moving.”
Other teachers got involved, too, taking kids out for extra recess when possible. When Fraad has funds to buy additional physical activity equipment, he looks for what he calls “Take 10” equipment – anything you can use when you have just 10 minutes to be active in class. Every bit of activity counts. Fraad and other Seward Elementary teachers also offer five after-school intramural activities each year – cross country running, soccer, basketball, volleyball and cross country skiing. When classrooms achieve a goal, they ask for an extra PE class instead of treats.
“We’re offering a healthy alternative to the pizza party,” Fraad said.
Fraad said school staff noticed improved student performance immediately after adding more PE time.
During the school year following the addition of PE classes, the percent of students proficient in math skills increased in grades 3-6 (Seward Elementary taught preschool through sixth grade until last year, when sixth grade moved to the middle school). The percent of students proficient in reading skills also increased in grades 3 and 5.
“We believe incorporating PE every day was a contributing factor in bringing our school’s percent proficient up and keeping it at that high level in the subsequent years,” said David Kingsland, who has been principal at Seward Elementary for the past 15 years.
Fraad said not all schools will be able to make the same changes Seward Elementary did to add more PE and activity to their students’ days. Every school has challenges to overcome to add physical activity, but he said there may be compromises that would add more recess or PE time. It’s paid off for Seward’s kids, Fraad said, helping them stay in shape physically and scholastically.
“Physical activity improves academics,” he said. “It improves kids’ behavior.”

Photo features PE teacher Mark Fraad of Seward Elementary juggling with work and play.
10/13/2014 9:57 AM

15-OPCP-0907-School PSA Poster-250x.jpgAlaska kids, you still have time to create and film a short video about how you get out and play.
The Play Every Day campaign’s video PSA contest ends Friday, October 31. The contest is challenging elementary school students across Alaska to create a 25-second video about how they get physically active every day, complete the Healthy Futures Challenge, or a combination of both. The Healthy Futures Challenge continues in 190 Alaska schools this month. So far, more than 12,000 children across the state have completed Challenge logs showing they’ve been physically active each week this fall.
Film that fun activity and show off how you play.
Here’s how the contest works:
Who: All Alaska public elementary school students in grades K-6. All entries must be supported and sponsored by a teacher or another adult school staff member. Students should take the lead in the creative direction and production, but an adult can advise students and help with the filming.
What: Make a 25-second public service announcement (PSA) video that motivates Alaska kids and families to get physically active and stay healthy.
When: Start now! Come up with your ideas, film the video and turn it in by 5 p.m. October 31, 2014.
Where: Film the creative ways you are physically active at your school or in your communities.
Why: Because playing is fun, and so is filming videos with your friends.
A panel of judges from the Play Every Day campaign and Healthy Futures will select the top three videos based on overall presentation, creativity, quality and following the contest criteria. The school that films the first-place video will receive a $500 gift card to buy physical activity equipment for the school, plus $25 gift cards for up to 10 students who worked closely on the video. Prizes include Play Every Day T-shirts for participating students, teachers and the principal.
Want more information about the contest? Please visit our webpage to learn more.
10/7/2014 11:24 AM

Stormy weather can make walking to work or school a challenge, but with the right gear and knowledge, kids can turn the trip to school into a lifetime habit of good health. International Walk to School Day serves as a reminder that daily life offers plenty of opportunity for physical activity. FiveKidsWalkingSchool250x250.jpg
All three schools in Petersburg registered for the event this year. “It’s important for people to see they can walk and make it part of what they do every day,” said Ginger Evens, the Healthy Living Grant Coordinator for the Petersburg City School District, one of eight districts receiving state grants to help reduce childhood obesity by improving school nutrition and physical activity at school. “If you have to get a ride to school because you live 10 miles out, then leave the car at the boat harbor and walk the last half mile. We want to encourage that walking is okay. We want the high school kids to know that walking downtown at lunch is a good thing.”
This year, Walk to School Day takes place on Wednesday, October 8. What began as a one-day event in 1997 grew into an international walking day in communities throughout the United States and Canada. The goal centers on creating safe routes and walkable communities, and encouraging people to explore their routes by foot.
Evens would love to see high participation at Stedman Elementary, Mitkof Middle School, and Petersburg High School, but she knows the younger kids will hit the pavement in higher numbers. “I’d be happy if a few kids in high school say they walked,” she said.
All three schools have put notices out in school bulletins and informed students about the event. Primary teachers have talked to their students about the importance of using crosswalks and sidewalks, walking the right direction and making sure they can be seen. The day of the event, Evens will conduct a survey to figure out how Petersburg kids do get to school so she can look at ways to make walking appealing.
In the end, walking to school or work means choosing self-locomotion as transportation and getting healthier because of it.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-09</hide>September 2014 ‎(4)
9/30/2014 4:13 PM

KidsFunRunningHFShot 9.30.14.jpg
Fun runs and daily play change in beautiful ways come fall and winter. The leaves turn color and coat the ground. The air crisps up and ignites the last smells of summer. The sound of footsteps begins to soften.

Welcome to some of the best running of the year. The Bonny Sosa Tuesday Night Race Series continues in Anchorage through October, along with an array of walking and running events that keep the chilling, darkening season warmed up throughout Alaska.
Get the skinny on fall and winter events through Play Every Day, Healthy Futures, and the Municipality of Anchorage Runners Calendar.
Here’s a quick rundown of a few family-friendly events throughout Alaska this October:
Oct. 4
  • Hit the Trails: 5k and 2k options, 10 a.m. at Trailside Elementary in Anchorage
  • The Home Run: 5k and 10k loop courses, 8:15 a.m. and 8:45 a.m., 3190 Alumni Drive in Anchorage,
  • It Ain’t Easy Hill Run: 5 miles flat, 11.3 miles hilly, 10 a.m. at Dog Mushers Hall, Farmers Loop in Fairbanks,
Oct. 5
  • Readers on the Run: 5k walk/run, 11 a.m. John Trigg Ester Library Gazebo in Fairbanks
Oct 11
  • Run the Rock: 10k at 10 a.m., 13.1 mile at 10 a.m., 5k at 12:30 p.m., starting at the Bear Valley Golf Course in Kodiak,
Oct. 18
Oct. 25
  • Skinny Raven Frightening 4k: 11 a.m. at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage,
  • 33rd Halloween Family Run: 2 and 10 miles, 10 a.m. at the UAF Patty Center in Fairbanks,
  • 2nd Annual Costume Run 5k: meet at 11 a.m. at the Nikiski Community Recreation Center,
9/22/2014 4:33 PM


Nearly 1,000 people will jog, run, walk and sprint over and through leaves, mud and puddles in each of eight races in the Bonny Sosa Tuesday Night Race Series this fall. The event run by Anchorage Parks and Recreation has engaged people of all ages in fun runs on city trails for decades.
The rainier and windier the night, the fewer the participants, but not by a lot — 854 people joined the first race this year compared to 1,100 who ran the second “less rainy and windy night,” said Margaret Timmerman of Parks and Recreation.
Needless to say, rain, wind and other dynamics like hilly courses and competitors in costume make for fun and unpredictable workouts. The race lengths vary for age, interest and skill, with courses ranging from a few kilometers for kids and kids at heart, 3 to 10 for recreational runners, and 4 to 12 for competitive racers. 
Timmerman reiterated the core principle of the program when giving tips for kids of all ages: “Stay on course, watch for trail markers and enjoy yourself,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you place, just that you get out and run.”
The race series represents just one of the many ways Anchorage supports getting out and playing. Remember to check out the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Activity Guide for activities like swimming, basketball, dance, skiing and yoga. Many are free or low-cost and open to all skill levels and ages.
As for the Tuesday Races, well they continue through the costume run on Oct. 28 and the awards banquet on Nov. 4. Online registration closes at 6 p.m. on the day of the event, with race time at 6:30 p.m. On-site registration is available at some races, but check online to confirm.
Here’s the remaining 2014 race schedule:   
·        September 23 - Tozier Track
·        September 30 - East High
·        October 7 - Russian Jack Springs Park (Cartee Fields)
·        October 14 - Service High
·        October 21 - Service High
·        October 28 - Kincaid Park Costume Run
·        November 4 - Kincaid Outdoor Center

Photo courtesy Anchorage Parks and Recreation
9/9/2014 11:52 AM

Hey Alaska kids:

Do you have a fun way you like to play?
We challenge you to show us what that looks like. The Play Every Day campaign is holding a video PSA contest challenging elementary school students across Alaska to create a short video about how you get out and play. The deadline for entries is Friday, October 31. 15-OPCP-0907-School PSA Poster-3C-SJ[1].jpg
Last year, Gladys Wood Elementary School in Anchorage created a fun video about how students there get physically active and do the Healthy Futures Challenge, which kicks off again in 186 Alaska schools this week. We thought the idea was so creative we decided to start a statewide video contest.
Use your video to show how you get physically active every day, complete the Healthy Futures Challenge, or a combination of both.
Here’s how it works:
Who: All Alaska public elementary school students in grades K-6. All entries must be supported and sponsored by a teacher or another adult school staff member. Students should take the lead in the creative direction and production, but an adult can advise students and help with the filming.
What: Make a 25-second public service announcement (PSA) video that motivates Alaska kids and families to get physically active and stay healthy.
When: Start now! Come up with your ideas, film the video and turn it in by 5 p.m. October 31, 2014.
Where: Film the creative ways you are physically active at your school or in your communities.
Why: Because playing is fun, and so is filming videos with your friends.
A panel of judges from the Play Every Day campaign and Healthy Futures will select the top three videos based on overall presentation, creativity, quality and adherence to the contest criteria. The school that films the first-place video will receive a $500 gift card to buy physical activity equipment for the school, plus $25 gift cards for up to 10 students who worked closely on the video. Prizes include Play Every Day T-shirts for participating students, teachers and the principal.
Want more information about the contest? Please visit our webpage to learn more.
Now grab your friends and make a movie – kids, cameras, ACTION!

9/3/2014 11:15 AM

Jamboree.healthy futures 224.jpg

Give a kid a race bib, and she’ll run. Give him a finish line, and he’ll lunge over it. Rain or shine, breezy or chilly, the Anchorage School District’s Elementary Cross-Country Jamborees give kids a chance to dash and run away with a sense of accomplishment.

“Much like the Tuesday Night Race series organized by the Muni, these Jamborees offer our children's families low-stakes and high-energy opportunities for healthy exercise and play,” said Ben Elbow, a co-organizer of the North Anchorage Jamboree and a physical education teacher at Rogers Park Elementary. “As a parent and teacher in Anchorage, I'm thankful for our city's tremendous trail system and appreciate all the dedicated volunteers who help organize these events.”
The annual citywide event began in 1987 when Baxter Elementary teacher Mike Allan threw the first Jamboree with help from Baxter Community Schools. He ran the Jamborees until 2003, when the elementary school physical education staff decided to split the race into three regional events in north Anchorage, south Anchorage, and Eagle River. By then, many schools had formed after-school running groups to help kids build endurance and confidence while playing games and running.
Now thousands of kids join the Jamborees across the city, and all receive ribbons after their photo finish.
"The Anchorage Elementary School Jamborees are one of the truly great Alaskan family traditions and they embody everything Healthy Futures stands for," said Harlow Robinson, the executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and the Healthy Futures program. "We are proud to be a partner and to support the event any way we can."
Students can get a head start on the Jamborees by doing the Coyote Classic at Kincaid Elementary on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m. Get a rundown of events and fun runs for kids here and on the Healthy Futures calendar. Here are the dates and times of the upcoming Jamborees:
·        Beach Lake Trails (Eagle River) Jamboree – Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Chugiak High School soccer fields and trails starting at 5 p.m.
·        North Anchorage Jamboree – Wednesday, Sept. 24, at Bartlett High School starting at 5 p.m.
·        South Anchorage Jamboree – Saturday, Sept. 27, at Service High School starting at 9:30 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Healthy Futures. 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-08</hide>August 2014 ‎(3)
8/27/2014 4:05 PM

BlueberryJamGirlinPinkSkikuShot2014.jpgThe first Blueberry Jam Fun Run in Kotzebue last year drew 65 people to the rolling, scenic course. Skiku coaches expected a few more this year and ended up picking barely enough berries for the 265 people who walked, jogged and ran across the finish line.

With ripe fruit and beautiful terrain as ingredients, the Blueberry Jam represents one of the many activities orchestrated by Skiku – sometimes known as NANANordic – to promote a healthy and active lifestyle for Alaska kids. What began as a Nordic ski program now integrates running, biking, and duathlon training with skate skiis and laser rifles.
“Being active all year is what we’re promoting,” said Robin Kornfield, the program manager for Skiku and vice president of communications and marketing for NANA Development. “Hunting, fishing and gathering are part of the lifestyle, and this fits into what people already do.”
Skiku runs a Nordic ski program in March and a running program in August. Competitive skiers come from throughout the country coach school kids in communities like Selawik, Kotzebue, Noatak and Shungnak. These volunteers teach physical fitness, Nordic skiing, the winter duathlon and all manner of play and, in turn, get to experience Alaska in a one-of-a-kind way.
The program also provides equipment to kids and schools to help sustain enthusiasm throughout the seasons. This year, Anchorage bicycle shops donated bikes so that kids can ride all year.
Through camps, gear and a good dose of play, the program helps “even people who aren’t into skiing or running stay active and involved,” said Kornfield.


Photo by Zach Hall, courtesy of Skiku.


8/14/2014 10:41 AM

blueberries.jpgThey abound in yards, along trails, in the alpine tundra. They appear bold and plump, bright and dense, firm and tender. They taste impeccable by the handful, on oatmeal, in smoothies.

Yep, its berry picking time in Alaska and this year’s pickings look plentiful and ripe. Gathering berries gets us outside and moving, while also yielding a cache of goodies to eat, freeze, can and dry for months to come.  
“All of Alaska’s berries, like blueberries, cranberries, and currents, provide vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants that can help prevent chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer,” said Diane Peck, the Public Health Nutritionist for the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.
“Cup for cup, cloudberries, or low-bush salmonberries, provide three times the amount of vitamin C in orange juice.”
Leslie Shallcross, an associate professor in the Anchorage office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, agreed. “Alaska wild berries are true nutrition power houses with even higher levels of antioxidants than their Lower 48 counterparts and the most abundant fruit type growing in Alaska,” she added. “Regular consumption of berries has been linked to many health benefits such as improved memory, lower blood sugar levels and decreased pain.”
All of which is to say, there are many good reasons to fill a pail with berries. Many Alaskans hold dear the secret to their favorite berry patch, of course, but it only takes a bit of looking to find one.
“Some of the parks in Anchorage will have blueberries, lingonberries, watermelon berries, currants, rose hips, high bush cranberry,” said Shallcross. “For family outings, Girdwood, Arctic Valley, Hatcher's Pass, Hope are favorites in South Central. …Some only grown in the damper, milder temperatures of Southeast Alaska.”
Berries don’t grow abundantly in the same places every year, so it pays to go on hikes ahead of time to look for flowers and immature berries. The exact ripening period varies in different regions and years, but most berries are ready to pick in mid to late July through August, with some ripening as late as September.
Some popular types of berries ripen in this order, from early to late summer -- wild strawberry, currants, wild raspberry, cloudberry, nagoonberry, salmonberry, blueberry, highbush cranberry, rosehip, crowberry, service berry.
“Altogether, there are around 40 different edible berries, although not all of these are tasty,” said Shallcross.
A few are poisonous or unpalatable, so it’s important to know how to identify them. Baneberry is particularly poisonous and just a few berries can lead to death. Adults should make sure children know how to identify safe berries before picking them, and beware of wildlife, plant live (like Devil’s club) and other hazards associated with the wilderness.
Parents should make sure their children know how to identify safe berries before picking them, and beware of wildlife, plant life (like Devil’s club) and other hazards associated with the wilderness.  As always when headed outdoors, take water and prepare for the weather.
There are numerous online sources to help, like Berry picking 101, as well as books like Verna Pratt's Alaska's Wild Berries and Berry-like Fruit and from Wild Edible and Poisonous Plants of Alaska. Other sources can give tips on how to store and prepare wild berries.
Armed with some knowledge and an appetite, everyone can fill up on one of the healthiest food on the planet by plucking them from the berry playground within your reach. 
8/5/2014 1:06 PM

Maybe you rent an apartment and don’t have a yard. Perhaps you have a yard, but it’s not big enough for a garden that feeds your family. Or, maybe you just like to plant vegetables among family, friends and neighbors.

All of these are great reasons to check out a local community garden program in your city. A number of Alaska communities have low-cost garden plots that you can rent to supply your family with lettuce, carrots and other vegetables throughout the summer. Here are links to some of them, but call your city to ask about gardens in your area:
These websites will help you find out when to register for a plot, what supplies are available and the rules for renting garden space. Fair warning: Community garden programs can be very popular and there may be waiting lists due to a limited number of plots.
There are lots of benefits to renting garden plots. You know what goes into your greens, and you can’t get much more local than your own garden plot. You have a place to be physically active — preparing the land, planting and harvesting — and reap the healthy rewards at your dinner table. You can get your kids involved, showing them how to grow their own food.
What can you grow? On its website, Juneau’s garden association calls potatoes “practically foolproof” and rhubarb “almost effortless.” The association recommends planting a short row of lettuce every couple of weeks, and to consider kale, a leafy green that “loves our weather.”
You can also save money by renting a garden plot. The cost for one plot in Anchorage is $35. In Juneau, plots also cost $35. The plot cost in Fairbanks is $40. Some gardens come with extras, including water for irrigation, picnic tables for family gatherings, portable toilets and a nearby area for kids to get out and play. Families can use their plots to grow their own vegetables without having to spend money purchasing produce that often has to be shipped here from outside states and countries.
Each garden has its rules. You must get your plot ready and planted by a certain time each year, and you need to tend your garden a certain numbers of hours each week. You need to be a good neighbor and keep your produce inside your plot boundaries. And you need to clean up after yourself at the end of the harvest.
Community gardens are in full swing this summer, but be sure to check out your community’s website to learn more about how you can grow your family’s food on a rented garden plot.
(Photo copyright 2013 Nathaniel Wilder. Used with permission from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.) 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-07</hide>July 2014 ‎(3)
7/30/2014 11:04 AM

A person at play needs the right fuel to do it. For that, nothing beats Alaska farmers markets, where you can find fresh, flavorful and nutritious vegetables, meat, seafood and bread.
FM-Quest 5.jpg
Through the collaborative effort of state agencies, the United States Department of Agriculture and local farmers markets, Alaskans with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as the Food Stamp Program) benefits can purchase foods from 11 farmers markets throughout the state.
Using Alaska Quest cards – the means for accessing SNAP benefits— eligible Alaskans can also take advantage of a matching program supported by the state that allows them to purchase up to $40 worth of eligible market foods for $20.
“My goal is to increase access to and the availability of healthy foods,” said Diane Peck, the Public Health Nutritionist for the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Local food, especially produce, is very healthy, fresh, and it supports local farmers and businesses, supports our economy, and all of that helps public health.”
The Alaska Farmers Markets – Quest Card Program began promoting and supporting the implementation of electronic banking at two pilot markets in 2011 using funds provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Electronic card readers allow markets to accept Quest cards. The pilot markets yielded $13,000 the first year. The program expanded from there, earning markets revenue of $50,000 in 2012 and $114,000 in 2013 when the matching program began.
This year, 11 markets accept Quest cards in Anchorage, Bethel, Homer, Fairbanks, Petersburg, Sitka and Willow, and all provide access to the matching program.
Access to fresh local foods makes a difference in health and the local community, said Peck. A survey of Quest card users showed their enthusiasm for supporting local farmers and having access to an array of organic foods, she said, and that means growing the customer base for local farmers.
7/23/2014 11:39 AM


When you bike, you need wheels. When you swim,
you need water. When you KikkanHollyFishRunningSoShouldYou07.23.2014.jpgski you need snow and boards under your feet. But when you run, you need little more than the right attitude.
“You can cover distance, you can do it anywhere, and you don’t need equipment to do it,” said Olympic skier Kikkan Randall, who also won the 2011 Mount Marathon trail race.
“And,” added Holly Brooks, the current Mount Marathon champ, “You never know when it’s going to come in handy.”
Like when you go from freeze to speed when playing tag, capture the flag, soccer and “keep-up-with-the-dog.” Truth is, you can jog or run anywhere – on trails, tracks, treadmills, playgrounds, grassy fields, sand, and mountain scree.
Running can also propel you into fun and unexpected territory. Randall got into skiing to stay in shape for cross country running, and later carried that momentum from Mount Marathon to Sochi, Russia – where she raced in the 2014 Winter Olympics where Holly did the same, and many other athletes and Alaskans integrate running into their journeys.
The fish are running and so should you. Check out the Alaska Runner’s Calendar for outdoor events and fun runs throughout Alaska. Here’re a few upcoming highlights from the list:
7/16/2014 10:03 AM

PED blog.jpg


PED signs blog.jpgObesity costs our kids by putting them at risk for childhood diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other chronic conditions, as well as putting stress on their joints, bones and organs.

Now translate that into dollars and cents. The medical cost of childhood obesity will top $625 million dollars over the next 20 years when considering just the current group of children and adolescents in Alaska, according to a new study by the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.
This number doesn’t include indirect costs of obesity, such as lower productivity, missed time from work or limited education, said the study’s author, Mouhcine Guettabi, an assistant economics professor at UAA.  Guettabi said the number “can be used as the absolute lower boundary of medical cost estimates.”
The study used a 2012 cohort of children from 2 to 19 years old to estimate obesity-related medical costs over 20 years for that group only. The pattern will continue in Alaska as more children are born, grow up, and become obese.
“This picture will repeat itself over and over and over,” Guettabi said.
The study bases its numbers on current patterns of obesity that show 15.2 percent of Alaska’s children classified as obese and 20 percent of non-obese Alaska children become obese adults.
The study concludes that reducing obesity rates in children between 2 and 19 years by 1 percent would save nearly $17 million over 20 years. Decreasing the percentage of non-obese kids who become obese adults by 1 percent would save over $14.3 million over 20 years. Dropping the percentage of obese adolescents who become obese adults would save another $2.9 million.
“The best way to save our children from the health burden of obesity is to prevent it in the first place, address it in childhood, and model family habits that promote lifelong nutrition and physical activity,” said Karol Fink, director of the Obesity Prevention and Control Program for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-05</hide>May 2014 ‎(3)
5/23/2014 9:44 AM



Play it safe: When on wheels, wear a helmet; when on water, wear a life jacket.   
Play every Day Blog
Sunlight and summer break appear on every kid’s ingredient list for play, but the recipe for fun should include safety gear, too.
Injury is the leading cause of death for Alaska children.Helmets and life jackets can make the difference between life and death when kids play on wheels or water.
Gaining speed and doing tricks on bikes, skates, scooters, skateboards and unicycles means risking unexpected bumps and falls. Thrills and spills happen, of course, but standard safety precautions can reduce the incidence and severity of injury.
“Both children and adults need to be wearing a helmet and be knowledgeable about the rules of the road,” said Stephanie Holmquist, program manager for the Be Safe Be Seen program for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Bicyclists should be aware of cars at all times and never assume the vehicle can see you. Wearing a reflector is a great way to be noticed by vehicles during the day or at night.”
Make sure helmets fit snugly and that kids know the importance of visibility. Even in daylight, reflectors and bright clothing help, and making eye contact with others on the road or trail means seeing and being seen.
Visit Alaska’s Injury Prevention Program to get more information on bicycle and pedestrian safety or to get reflectors or helmets for your school. Also, check out the testimonial of mixed media artist Margret Hugi-Lewis, who suffered a head injury when skating in her studio.
Kids also spend a lot of time in and around water during the summer months.
“Alaska is a playground surrounded by water,” said Maria Bailey, of theKids Don't Float PFD Loaner Program. “When playing near water or boating, wear a life jacket.”
If you own a boat or spend a lot of time by the water, make sure you have life jackets on hand and that kids wear them. Children under 13 are required by law to wear personal flotation devices when in an open boat, on an open deck and when waterskiing.
Look for the Kids Don’t Float loaner boards at beaches and near bodies of water throughout Alaska. These boards allow you to borrow life jackets free of charge. There are over 500 loaner sites from Adak to Yukon Village.
Whether by land or by water, help kids play safely so they play every day all summer long.
5/16/2014 9:47 AM


The first 150 schools that sign up for the Challenge will receive two window clings to display.
Play every Day Blog
It’s hard to think about the next school year when this one is days away from summer break. 
But the Play Every Day campaign is working with Healthy Futuresthis week to sign up Alaska elementary schools for the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge next September.
Getting schools signed up now means teachers and other staff can prepare to kick off the physical activity challenge when the 2014-15 school year begins.
If you’re a principal, teacher or school staff member, visit the Healthy Futures website to sign up your school. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday, May 14. Don’t wait to register. During the registration period for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge that just ended, 90 schools signed up in the first hour and the first 150 schools signed up in three days.
Current funding allows Healthy Futures to provide prizes to participating students at the first 150 schools that sign up. Those first schools will also receive two window clings to show off their involvement in the Healthy Futures Challenge.
Additional schools that sign up will be added to a waiting list and entered into the Fall Challenge if funding allows.
Here’s how the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge works: The Challenge will run September, October and November 2014. Students in grades K-6 at participating schools will pick up a log form at school each month and mark down the number of days they were physically active. They’ll turn in the log at the end of the month to a designated staff member at their schools. Healthy Futures will send prizes to the school staff to distribute to students who successfully complete each month of the Challenge.
Schools with the highest participation rates also can win Healthy Futures grants to buy health and physical education equipment.
If you’re a student or a parent who wants to make sure your school participates, please talk to your school’s staff and encourage them to register the school online. The Fall Challenge is free for schools and students throughout Alaska.
Join the fun, and get out and play, every day.


5/7/2014 9:49 AM

The latest Play Every Day PSAtalks about how obesity effects children on the inside.   
Play every Day Blog
Some people focus on obesity because of how it looks on the outside. They consider it a cosmetic problem. But obesity is also a physical problem, and it impacts adults – and kids – from the inside out.
On the inside of the body, even in children, obesity leads to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the body working overtime to balance blood sugar and get enough oxygen. The burden of this extra work can lead to heart disease, diabetes and asthma in childhood and later in life.
Extra weight in kids further “puts strain on joints that can result in knee, hip, and back pain that keep kids from being active 60 minutes a day,” said Karol Fink, director of the Obesity Prevention and Control Program for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
Yet an hour of physical activity a day is essential to our children’s health. That’s why Play Every Day produced a PSA to make Alaskans aware that it’s what’s on the inside that matters.
“Because of what is going on inside of our children’s bodies,” said Fink, “it is predicted that the current generation of children and youth will be diagnosed with chronic medical conditions earlier in life than the generations before.”
Fortunately we can fix this. Get out and play with your children, cut down on screen time, create family time around physical activity and healthy meals, and help build communities that make physical activity safe and easy for people of all ages.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-04</hide>April 2014 ‎(4)
4/30/2014 9:50 AM

Kids ride for health, fun and friendship on Bike to School Day.   
Play every Day Blog
Leave the bus stop behind and hop on your bike instead.
On May 7, join students from more than 40 Anchorage schools in riding your bikes to school.National Bike to School Dayprovides a fun, healthy alternative for getting to school in the morning.
Students at Alpenglow Elementary in Eagle River will be joined by a special guest rider on their way to school – cross country skier Sadie Bjornsen, fresh off her Olympic races in Sochi, Russia.
The goal is to bike to school safely, so the Bicycle Shop is partnering with the Anchorage School District to hold a Bike Safety Check and Carnival at their 1801 W. Dimond Blvd. store from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 3.Safety experts will make sure the bikes are safe for pedaling to school, help adjust helmets, and provide other safety tips.
Students who bike to school on May 7 must wear helmets and should wear bright clothing so they can be more easily seen on the road.
Parents, we didn’t mean to leave you out. Join your sons and daughters on their ride to school, then just keep on going and bike all the way to the office. (You’ll have a jumpstart on Bike to Work Day, which will take place in Anchorage on June 4!)
Find out if your children’s schools are participating in Bike to School day. If not, you can call the school staff and encourage them to sign up – and, of course, bike to school and work anyway! 
4/22/2014 9:52 AM

College Gate Elementary students show the joy of play during their Make Your Move video shoot.   
Play every Day Blog
Katie Povolo teaches PE atCollege Gate Elementary and Stephen Kennedy runs the Anchorage School District’s ASD-TV. Together with College Gate students and ASD staff, they created one of five grand prize videos in the national Make Your Move video competition run by Quaker Oats and sponsored by the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60program.  Hundreds of schools submitted entries.
The College Gate video won a $15,000 grand prize toward outdoor PE gear, plus a school visit by Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith of the Seattle Seahawks. Smith visited College Gate on April 11 to congratulate students and staff on the video and share his thoughts about fitness and nutrition.
The prize money went toward cross country skis that are on order now, due at the school next fall, as part of the program's mission to get kids physically active one hour every day. Povolo has already implemented an ongoing "Fuel Up To Play 60" program with a fruit and veggie contest, a push up and sit up contest, a “PE class of the week” selection, and morning music to get kids up and out of their seats during the day's announcements.
The video produced great results for the school and its students. Here, Povolo and Kennedy explain how it got made:
POVOLO: I saw the Fuel Up To Play 60 "Make Your Move" contest this fall. I was very interested in entering the contest because it had a huge grand prize of $15,000 and that can purchase a lot of awesome physical education equipment for my students.
KENNEDY: It was pretty crazy. I remember we had only a week or two before the submission deadline, which in my realm is like trying to cook a frozen turkey in 10 minutes. 
POVOLO: Melanie Sutton (ASD), myself and Stephen got together for some creative brainstorming and came up with the creative slogan "Fuel Up To Play the Alaska Way" and that the (prize) money would be used to purchase cross country skis and snowshoes for our students at College Gate. … I talked about Alaska winters being dark, cold, and long, and that having skis and snowshoes would be a wonderful way to bring my physical education students outside into nature while exercising.
KENNEDY: I spent the entire school recess with Katie on the day of our recording. It's such a joy to get out and spend time with our students and staff, easily the best part of my job. We just got out there and exercised and played with all the students. It was an absolute blast! … Afterwards, I spent about eight hours putting it all together.  I had to crush about an hour of footage down to 60 seconds. That was my biggest challenge.
POVOLO: When Stephen finished the video and sent it to me I was elated. It turned out so fantastic! I submitted the entry in November and was notified on January 6th that we had won the grand prize of $15,000.
Check out all the Make Your Move contest winners and think about what you can do to inspire play in your school and community.


4/15/2014 9:53 AM


Taking flight in spring light. Photo courtesy of NANANordic.   
Play every Day Blog
If you put kids on skis, they’ll use them to skate ski, ski jump, skijor, do biathlons, and race across snow and ice to their hearts’ content.
That’s the idea two-time Olympian Lars Flora took to the NANA Development Corporation in 2011.The following year, he and 20 volunteers held weeklong cross country skiing camps for 650 students in Kotzebue, Kiana, Selawik and Noorvik.
NANANordic ignited, with twice as many coaches heading to NANA region villages and Anaktuvuk Pass this month to run ski camps for 2,000 kids in 12 communities. Getting and moving gear and coaches to the villages takes time, money and resources, but the results take no time to see.
“After raising money, buying skis, getting coaches there, and doing so much more to make it happen, you go to these schools and see that it’s so simple, so tangible, so apparent that the program fills a huge need,” said Robin Kornfield, program manager for NANANordic and vice president of communications and marketing for NANA Development Corporation.
The program’s coaching pool includes Olympians, World Cup skiers, university coaches, and student athletes. The program focuses on skiing for fun, but it shares an enthusiasm and expectation for healthy habits.
“They’re drinking water, not soda,” said Kornfield. “They’re eating apples, not candy.”
Coaches often ski from village to village, where they camp at schools, prepare their own meals, and work all day with kids during physical education classes before opening up ski cam to the whole community. Some of these villages of 100 to 3,500 residents have a skiing history.
Flora looks at the program in terms of a long-term commitment. “It’s about getting people acquainted, if not competing,” he said. “It’s about finding ways to make skiing a regular part of their lives.”
To that end, NANANordic donates skis to the school districts so the villages can make gear available to people all year. The program also supports efforts to get kids on skis in Anchorage, and coordinates rural Alaska running camps in the fall to complement the spring skiing camps.
This month, coaches will complete camps in 12 communities: Kotzebue, Kiana, Ambler, Shungnak, Noatak, Noorvik, Deering, Anaktuvuk Pass, Kivalina, Selawik, Kobuk, and Buckland. For more information,


4/2/2014 9:53 AM

Get your feet wet to support Healthy Futures.   
Play every Day Blog
Kids don’t really care what the weather’s like outside.
They just want to play. You see it in the smiling boy being picked up from school, snowsuit sopping wet and covered with mud from spring puddles. The girl next to him has the same smile on her face, covered cheek to cheek in dirt after an afternoon outside.
So why don’t we take a cue from them?
One of the first running races of this spring is being organized by Play Every Day’s partner – Healthy Futures. The Tough Slusher will start at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 12, on the field and trails northeast of Service High School in Anchorage. The race, which will have a 5K and 2K course, is one of the official events recognizing the Anchorage Centennial.
Race organizers know it’s likely going to be snowy and slushy. In fact, Healthy Futures executive director Harlow Robinson hopes it’s a mushy course. It's not called the “Tough Slusher” for nothing. 
“Wear your rubber boots!” Robinson said. “Come out and have fun.”
It may be cold … or it may be warm. It’s really tough to say this time of year. But who cares, right?
The race is not competitive, is open to people of all ages, and has no registration fee. The Slusher is a fundraiser for Healthy Futures, however. The signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame,Healthy Futures has the mission of encouraging Alaska children to build the daily habit of physical activity for good health. It supports that mission by organizing low-cost family-friendly events and school-based physical activity challenges each year. (Kids, you can count the Tough Slusher as an activity on your Healthy Futures Challenge log for April!)
Participants who contribute a minimum donation of $20 will receive a Healthy Futures T-shirt.
Robinson said he hopes the Tough Slusher becomes an annual event. Alaska Olympic skier Kikkan Randall will start the race taking participants through a course marked by photographs of Anchorage’s recreation history.
“There’s a shot from the 1930s of the people on the ski train,” Robinson said. “There’s a picture of the Eklutna woman’s basketball team from the 1940s.”
Participants will see photographs that go all the way back to the 1910s.
“I hope they walk away feeling like Anchorage is a healthy, active community,” Robinson said.
Register online. If you have questions about the race or the registration process, contact
Just remember to bring your winter coat, your spring rain boots and your sunglasses. You never know which one you’ll need! 

collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-03</hide>March 2014 ‎(2)
3/25/2014 9:54 AM


Woodriver Elementary students spring into action by joining the Challenge.   
Play every Day Blog
Spring in Alaska can feel like a slog sometimes. As the amount of daylight lengthens, the melting begins -- and with it, puddles and mud, ruts and bogs, the colors and odors of winter’s undoing and summer’s approach. All of which means there’s more reason to get outside and play.
Spring means getting on snowshoes one day and biking the next. It means scraping snow and ice before jumping rope in short sleeves. And it means joining the last splash of the Healthy Futures Challenge, a school-based program to help kids get physically active.
Over 10,000 students from 158 elementary schools participated in the Healthy Futures Challenge in February. By the end of this school year, thousands of more students will complete the Challenge.
Kids can still get involved by joining the Challenge at their school and by staying physically active all year through sports, play, exploration, adventure, the performing arts, wilderness camps and much more.
Check your community’s resources for free and affordable programs, park locations, trail maps, event calendars and more. Need suggestions?
The Alaska Runner’s Calendar includes footraces, triathlons, fun runs, orienteering and more events and activities happening throughout the state.
Look for local parks and recreation resources like these for information on events and activities in your community:


3/6/2014 9:55 AM

Woodriver Elementary students demonstrate one way to play every day.   
Play every Day Blog
Play Every Day headed north to Fairbanks this week to kick off two programs that celebrate being physically active, and having a lot of fun while doing it.
Woodriver Elementary Schoolhosted an assembly Wednesday, March 5, that kicked off theHealthy Futures Challenge for March in a record 168 schools across Alaska. Thousands of Alaska elementary-age children are being physically active every week, tracking that activity on simple logs, and turning the logs in each month for prizes. For more than two years, Play Every Day has partnered withthe Healthy Futures program to run school-based physical activity challenges throughout Alaska.
The Woodriver students also were joined by Team Alaska, who will be competing in the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks March 15–22. Team Alaska athletes and Woodriver students raced through an indoor obstacle course that included four Arctic Winter Games sports — basketball, soccer, hockey and gymnastics — and then threw in special skills taught by Woodriver’s physical education teacher — riding a unicycle and jumping on a pogo stick.
Raavee, the Arctic Winter Games raven mascot, got some loud cheers from the kids, but not as loud as the cheering that happened when the Woodriver kids shouted their answer to a question from Healthy Futures executive director Harlow Robinson.
What are you going to do, Woodriver?
Get out and play.
When are you going to do it?
Every day!

collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-02</hide>February 2014 ‎(4)
2/26/2014 9:56 AM

UAA Seawolf hockey players join O'Malley Elementary students in promoting the 2014 Spring Healthy Futures Challenge on Feb. 26.     
Play every Day Blog
What do you get when you put competitive college hockey players on the ice with elementary students? Races, chases, and a whole lot of smiling faces.
Just ask the UAA Seawolf hockey players who skated during an O’Malley Elementary School assembly this week in Anchorage to promote the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge.
First, they played goalie against first-graders on the gym stage and then they laced up their skates to hit the ice rink with fifth-graders who had high participation in past Healthy Futures Challenges.
At least one Seawolf said he hadn’t been on an outdoor rink in years, let alone played a game of Sharks and Minnows.  The experience made him smile.  Joining children on skates, dancing or playing ball supports their need for 60 minutes of physical activity every day and fulfills our own need for playfulness, too.
“Doing these events reminds us of how much fun play can be,” said Ann Potempa, program director for Play Every Day, a program of theDepartment of Health and Social Services. “Seeing kids of all ages being active, whether by ice skating or making an obstacle course in school or at home, shows how easy and joyful it is to play."
The Healthy Futures Challenge, the signature program of the nonprofitAlaska Sports Hall of Fame, encourages physical activity in youth by providing incentives for schools and students to promote and track weekly activity. Play Every Day supports the program’s administration and promotes participation through statewide messages and events.
The next kickoff event takes place next week in Fairbanks when Team Alaska Athletes join a school assembly at Woodriver Elementary School to celebrate the Challenge and the upcoming Arctic Winter Games.
An estimated 17,500 students from elementary schools across Alaska are expected to participate in the Challenge this spring. Healthy Futures and Play Every Day join multiple partners in engaging youth in play to help them maintain healthy weights and sustain healthy habits throughout their lives.

2/19/2014 9:58 AM


When the Dorsch-Aften children joined Healthy Futures Challenge, the whole family started to play every day for health.     
Play every Day Blog
Last fall, 15,794 kids across Alaska committed to the Healthy Futures Challenge. 
Two of those children were Hance, age 10, and Lily, 7. 
These two siblings changed how their whole family looked at physical activity.
It used to be that their mom, Heather, had her own activities. She likes to run and hike, sometimes right out her back door in Anchorage. Their dad, Anthony, also runs. 
But the kids? Heather said it was sometimes a struggle to get them off the couch and moving.  The parents’ efforts to get them outside for an adventure were answered with complaints and moans. 

Then Heather started noticing a change. The kids were asking her if they could get out and play. 
“I was stunned,” Heather said. “I about fell on the floor the first time my daughter came to me and begged me to go out running with her for 30 minutes.”
When Heather asked her why, Lily said she had promised her physical education teacher that she was going to be physically active that day. If she didn’t honor her commitment, she wouldn’t successfully finish theHealthy Futures Challenge that has children logging their physical activity for three months in the fall, and again in the spring. She wouldn’t get her prize at the end of the month if she wasn’t physically active enough days each week. 

Something similar happened another night. 
“We were just about ready to bundle them off to bed when they both protested that they needed to get out and do something or they would come up short for the week,” Heather said. “It was dark and in the single digits, but there was no way I was going to deny them, especially when it was their idea, even if it meant being late to bed.”
The Aften-Dorsch family put on their snow pants, coats and headlamps and went out for a nighttime walk with their dog.
Now, even when the Healthy Futures Challenge is done for the year, the kids still ask to get out and play. As Heather says, the healthy habit has been made, and now they are just active because it’s fun and makes them feel good.
This winter, the Aften-Dorsch family helped the Play Every Day campaign film public service announcements about their commitment to the Healthy Futures Challenge and getting out to play, every day. 
Click on the video below to see what the Challenge has done for this Anchorage family. Find out if your child’s school is signed up for theHealthy Futures Challenge this spring by visiting the Healthy Futures website.

2/11/2014 9:59 AM

Play Every Day's new logo captures the energy of youth at play.
Play every Day Blog
Play Every Day just launched itsFacebook page and invites you to like it, tag it, and share it with friends. You can use the page to access and pass along information, ideas, events and stories related to keeping our kids and families healthy and physically active.
Look to the page for facts about the health benefits of physical activity, nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight. You will also find success stories about Alaska athletes, students, families and leaders making a difference in the health of our youth, as well as details about upcoming races, fun runs, sporting events, Healthy Futures Challenges and more. The Play Every Day page will further connect you to resources and opportunities, and post photos, videos and news that inform and inspire.
Establishing the page allows Play Every Day to become an active member of a community of organizations and individuals devoted to the health of Alaskans.
Now it’s your turn: Go to and let us know how you play every day for healthy kids and healthy communities.

2/4/2014 10:00 AM

The Dorsch-Aften family gets outside to play every day, just another way to commit to the Healthy Futures Challenge and lifelong health.
Play every Day Blog
Our kids need 60 minutes of physical activity every day to maintain a healthy weight, strengthen their hearts, bodies and minds, and build healthy habits that last a lifetime. TheHealthy Futures program helps us rise to the challenge by motivating thousands of kids to get moving each year.
Judging from the program’s growth, kids and schools love the results.The 2014 Spring Healthy Futures Challenge kicks off this week in a record 169 elementary schoolsfrom 37 Alaska school districts, up from 36 schools and four school districts three years ago.
More than 17,000 children are expected to join the spring challenge by walking, climbing, dancing, leaping, skiing, playing ball, setting up home obstacle courses, and coming up with other creative ways to be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, three days a week. 
The current challenge consists of three four-week periods beginning Feb. 2, March 2 and March 30. Kids sign up at their schools, play every day, and then turn in completed activity logs for prizes like reflective gear, stopwatches and other useful items. Students who turn in three consecutive logs during the challenge will be entered into a drawing for $300 sports packages that can be used to buy equipment or lessons that promote physical activity.
Healthy Futures also gives cash awards to 12 schools each Challenge period, based on the highest percentage of participation for their school’s population. Prizes range from $200 to $600 and the money can be spent on physical fitness gear or educational materials. A lottery will award an additional three schools with $200 awards.
Healthy Futures is the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. It has support from many partners, including the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2014-01</hide>January 2014 ‎(2)
1/28/2014 10:01 AM

Ski 4 Kids gets children outside to play for the day, but it also helps get them out on the trails all year long.
Play every Day Blog
What do you get when you invite every kid in the city to a snow-laden playground of obstacle courses, ski races, skijoring, a mock biathlon, and acres of room to play? A fantastic mass start, limitless fun, and enough funds to get kids on skis all winter. 
This year’s Ski 4 Kids Day takes place Saturday, Feb. 8, at Kincaid Park. Kids from 1 to 14 years old can participate, and their parents can join them. The event is free, but donations are accepted and appreciated.
The event promotes fitness and raises funds for the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Ski Outreach Program, a community-wide outreach effort to get ski equipment and instructors to schools and youth organizations.
The Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage supports the program through grants funded through the Ski 4 Kids event, and it now runs a new NSAA Ski 4 School-kids Program to help provide ski coaching for local elementary schools.
To join the party, register online , download a mail-in registration online and send it in, or show up from 9 to 11 a.m. on Feb. 8, the day of the event.
Coming soon: Play Every Day with the Olympic Games
The Olympic Games inspire hope and resilience. They celebrate hard work and diversity. They champion commitment and camaraderie.
Every week during this winter's Games from Feb. 7 to 23, Play Every Day will look at the Olympic stories that ignite our kids’ bodies, hearts and minds.
Just looking at the array of games sparks the imagination, with 12 new winter sports added to the mix this year, and that’s what Play Every Day is all about – supporting kids and families in getting physically active 60 minutes every day, whether through organized sports, outings with dogs, the creation of new tag games, or just going solo.
Where there’s a will, there’s a new way to play.

1/7/2014 10:03 AM

Log sheets like this provide a means for tracking progress when resolving to play every day..  
Play every Day Blog
New Year’s resolutions range from the simple to the extraordinary, from the promise to shovel the driveway after every snowfall to the vow to travel the world. But getting fit remains one of the most popular and enduring resolutions.
The benefits of physical activity extend far beyond the act itself. Children who get an hour of activity every day do better in school and are more confident, and the habit of physical activity shows positive results throughout the lifespan.
Whether a first-grade runner training for the mile or an Olympic skier gearing up for a world cup race, the path to success starts with realistic, concrete plans and a system for monitoring progress.
The Healthy Futures Challenge incorporates these core concepts. The program encourages the habit of fitness in Alaska children by engaging schools and students in a schedule of physical activity tracked through log sheets that kids turn in for acknowledgement and prizes.
The program allows plenty of room for play. The form of activity can vary from dance and team sports to hiking and family pool time. Incorporating joy and passion make a difference. San Francisco woman Karen Cheng taught herself to dance by committing 5 minutes a day to practicing.
She created a time-lapse video of her progress through the year and recently talked about how to keep a resolution in a Washington Post blog, emphasizing the importance of setting a doable goal and schedule.  Instead of resolving to lose weight, Cheng said, a person should promise to do something physically active every day for a set amount of time, and then allow wiggle room for play.
She learned everything from juggling to building a design career using this strategy. “You have to be willing to try many things,” she said in the article. “When you find something you’re truly passionate about, it will prioritize itself.”
In other words, resolve to get outside (and/or inside) to play every day and the rewards will take care of themselves.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2013-12</hide>December 2013 ‎(4)
12/17/2013 11:52 AM

Find elementary schools participating in the 2014 Spring Healthy Futures Challenge here.
Play every Day Blog
Everyone wins with the Healthy Futures Challenge. Kids get prizes that inspire the joy of movement. Teachers get classrooms full of students more focused on their work. Parents get the satisfaction of watching their children grow stronger and more motivated about school and health.
And schools get a sense of community built around physical activity.
Involvement in the Challenge offers other rewards, too. Healthy Futures, a nonprofit group dedicated to empowering Alaska’s youth to build the habit of daily physical activity, gives grand prizes to students and awards to schools.
This fall’s Challenge yielded awards of $600, $400 and $200 to the top three schools in each of four tiers based on school population. It also gave  lottery awards of $200 to three schools with student participation of 20 percent or higher. The awards must be spent on equipment or materials that promote physical activity. Teachers at Bowman Elementary in Anchorage bought helmets for ice skating after getting an award for the 2013 Spring Challenge, for example.
The 2013 Fall Challenge engaged 15,795 students in physical activity. Four students who participated in all three months of the Fall Challenge won $300 sports packages toward the purchase of equipment or lessons, and 15 schools earned $200 to $600 awards. Here is a list of the winning schools:
Tier 1 (Schools with more than 400 students)
1st: Bowman (Anchorage School District)
2nd: Ravenwood (Anchorage)
3rd: Bear Valley (Anchorage)
Tier 2 (201-400 students)
1st: Huffman (Anchorage)
2nd: Campbell (Anchorage)
3rd: Machetanz (Mat-Su Borough School District)
Tier 3: (41-200 students)
1st: Girdwood (Anchorage)
2nd: Our Lady Of The Valley (Private Mat-Su school)
3rd: Aniguiin (Bering Strait School District)
Tier 4: (40 or fewer students)
1st: Eagle Community (Alaska Gateway School District)
2nd: Koliganek (Southwest Region School District)
3rd: Innoko River (Iditarod Area School District)
Lottery Award Schools
Willow (Mat-Su)
Cantwell (Denali Borough School District)
Polaris (Anchorage School District)
Check out the list of participating schools to find out how elementary students from throughout Alaska can join the challenge.
12/13/2013 12:04 PM

The first 150 schools that sign up get prizes for students who participate.
Congratulations to the first 150 schools that signed up for the Spring Challenge on the Healthy Futures website. The spring Challenge begins the first week of February, 2014.
The program is still accepting school registrations on a waiting list while looking to the community for additional funding. The registration period ends Dec. 19.
15,794 Alaska school kids committed to being physically active this fall, and followed through.
All of those elementary school kids in 143 schools across the state took part in the statewide Fall Healthy Futures Challenge.
Check out the list of participating schools to find out how elementary students from throughout Alaska can join the challenge. Students participate for free and win incentives for being active. Schools can win, too, through grants given to schools with the highest participation.
Current funding allows the program to give the first 150 schools a “Get out and Play, Every Day” banner and incentive prizes for participating students. After 150 schools sign up, additional schools will be added to a waiting list pending additional funding.
Healthy Futures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, became a partner with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Play Every Day campaign in fall 2011. That spring, 36 schools signed up and about 1,300 children completed the Challenge.
Look where the Challenge is today:
  • This fall, 143 elementary schools and 30 school districts across Alaska participated.
  • A record 15,794 Alaska children were physically active and logged that activity.
  • One out of five Alaska elementary school students participated in the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge.
  • One out of three Anchorage elementary school students participated in the Fall Challenge.
Here are the details about the Healthy Futures Challenge for spring 2014.
  • Who:
    All Alaska elementary school children, kindergarten through sixth grade
  • What:
    Students keep logs of their physical activity outside gym class. Each month, students submit logs to a school staff member who record them on a simple electronic database. Healthy Futures mails incentives to the school for distribution at no cost to the teachers or staff.
  • When:
    Healthy Futures Physical Activity Challenge Period — February, March, April 2014
  • Where:
    Alaska schools, with the help of Healthy Futures, the Department of Health and Social Services, school staff and parents.
  • How:
    Sign up at 

12/6/2013 12:05 PM

The first 150 schools that sign up get prizes for students who participate.
15,794 kids.
That’s how many children in Alaska committed to being physically active this fall, and followed through.
All of those elementary school kids in 143 schools across the state took part in the statewide Healthy Futures Challenge this fall.
An anticipated record number of participants will take part in the spring Challenge that kicks off in February.
Elementary schools can sign up for the Spring Challenge on the Healthy Futures website now through 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20. Students participate for free and win incentives for being active. Schools can win, too, through grants given to schools with the highest participation.
Current funding allows the program to give the first 150 schools a “Get out and Play, Every Day” banner and incentive prizes for participating students. After 150 schools sign up, additional schools will be added to a waiting list pending additional funding.
Healthy Futures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, became a partner with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Play Every Day campaign in fall 2011. That spring, 36 schools signed up and about 1,300 children completed the Challenge.
Look where the Challenge is today:
  • This fall, 143 elementary schools and 30 school districts across Alaska participated.
  • A record 15,794 Alaska children were physically active and logged that activity.
  • One out of five Alaska elementary school students participated in the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge.
  • One out of three Anchorage elementary school students participated in the Fall Challenge.
Here are the details about the Healthy Futures Challenge for spring 2014.
  • Who:
    All Alaska elementary school children, kindergarten through sixth grade
  • What:
    Students keep logs of their physical activity outside gym class. Each month, students submit logs to a school staff member who record them on a simple electronic database. Healthy Futures mails incentives to the school for distribution at no cost to the teachers or staff.
  • When:
    Healthy Futures Physical Activity Challenge Period — February, March, April 2014
  • Where:
    Alaska schools, with the help of Healthy Futures, the Department of Health and Social Services, school staff and parents.
  • How:
    Sign up at 

12/3/2013 12:06 PM


Getting outside in the winter starts with preparation, ends with fun.


Sitting on a couch with a book sounds cozy. Playing board games with visitors sounds fun. Sipping hot cocoa and watching movies at home sounds relaxing.


Going outside on a wintery day to shovel snow, walk the dogs, or play in the park may sound in comparison like work – especially to kids – but once they push through the first few minutes, the first hump of snow, the first barrage of snowballs, the joy of movement and natural light (or dark) takes hold.
Part of the motivation puzzle involves preparation. Kids need the right gear for the weather, a place to put it, and a plan for putting it on. Every list oftips to stay safe outdoors talks about wearing thinner layers against the skin, heavier layers over the top; the trick is to remove layers when heating up and sweating, adding them when slowing down and chilling. The idea is to keep the body relatively dry while insulating for heat.  
With that in mind, here are some quick notes for getting families up, out and safely into Play Every Day:
  • Drink plenty of fluids all day. Hydration helps keep body temperature regulated.
  • Wear the right clothes for the weather.
  • Wear or carry a hat or neck gaiter. Covering and uncovering the head and neck can help regulate body temperature and protect against hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Wear or carry gloves or mittens, and wool or synthetic socks. Again, this critical gear can protect against hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Wear reflective clothing or gear, and carry a headlamp or flashlight.
  • Carry a waist or back pack to hold everything when not wearing or using it.
  • Play in the yard, in the woods, on the trails, but stay clear of snow berms.
  • Head into the wind on the way out so it’s at your back on the return. 
  • And before heading out the door, try warming up to stay warm:
    o Put clothes in a dryer before putting them on.
    o Do jumping jacks or other warm-ups right before going out. 
    o Use hand and/or feet warmers.
    o Cover your face.
    o Double up on gloves.
Kids of all ages forget how much they love playing outdoors in the snow, wind, and cold, but it only takes a few minutes to warm up to the joy of building forts, climbing sledding hills, gliding on skis, and catching snowflakes while catching a misty breath.  


collapse Published Month : <hide>2013-11</hide>November 2013 ‎(4)
11/20/2013 12:07 PM

By foot, by snowshoe, by ski, by wheels: A feast of winter fun runs, activities to celebrate the season.
Tis the season for snow, ice, wind, and a bevy of fun runs that will warm the bodies, brains and holidays of families and the littlest elves.
The Skinny Raven Turkey Trotgives kids of all ages a chance to put the burners on before feasting on holiday meals. The midmorning run on the Anchorage Park Strip takes place on Thanksgiving, November 28, with a one-lap 2.5K loop for kids 10 and under, plus a 5K run for kids of all-ages.
Winners in each age class will win a pie, and proceeds from the registration fees will benefit the Team Alaska Track Club and The Food Bank of Alaska. Food donations will also be accepted.
Other kid-friendly activities include the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis 5Kon Saturday, December 14, at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The event starts with a costume contest at 10 a.m. and warm-ups at 10:15. Children 10 years and younger can run with the elves at 10:55 a.m., or go with the rest of the racers at 11:15 a.m. Santa will make an appearance, and there will be face painting, a magician, and much more.
Joggers in Fairbanks can bring in the New Year by starting a 3-miler at 11:30 p.m. in 2013, and rolling into 2014 as they cross the finish line. Check out Running Club North for a list of fun and competitive outdoor activities in the Fairbanks area, many of them free.
For statewide events, go to the Runners Calendar for a list of triathlons, snowshoe romps, fun runs, foot races and other outdoor activities. 

11/13/2013 12:08 PM

Alaska skateboarder Preston Pollard gets airborne when he plays outside. Photo credit: Brian Adams.
Here, Alaska-born skaterPreston Pollard leans back in mid-air over a snowy creek on his skateboard.
The magazine caption reads, “The iceman cometh. Preston Pollard gets frozen forever.”
This classic skateboard trick with an Alaska twist captures the life Pollard always dreamed of landing.  Born and raised in Alaska, the 25-year-old athlete now resides in Los Angeles, where he makes a living riding boards and doing ads, modeling, television work and motivational speaking. When talking to school kids, he delivers a simple but heartfelt message: Make good, healthy choices, and never give up on dreams.
As an elementary school student in Alaska, Pollard couldn’t wait for recess so he could play tag with his friends. He got involved in basketball, hockey and soccer, too, but once he hopped on a skateboard after school one day, he never looked back.
He enjoyed team sports and snowboarding, but skating really resonated with him, “because it was something different,” he said. “I felt like I didn't have a coach to tell me what to do, or what time to show up. I felt free, and skateboarding was just a big family.”
He skated wherever he found bare pavement, and his parents drove him to skateboard parks when they could. He dreamt then of becoming a sponsored skateboarder – and his dream came true. 
Pollard shares his story with kids because he believes being healthy, working hard, and having energy and focus helps dreams come true.
Getting and staying active is the key. If you are unsure about what to do or how to get motivated, “start small,” he said. “Go outside and walk, or ride your bike, build a fort or an Igloo. Instead of going for fast food, try eating something more light. Try drinking more water.”
Whatever the dream, eating healthy food, getting enough sleep andplaying every day can help get you there. 

11/12/2013 12:09 PM

Whether filming action or climbing walls, Gladys Wood students play every day.
The Healthy Futures Challengeis taking off at so many elementary schools that the buzz to sign up and participate is now coming from the kids themselves.
Exhibit A: Check out this new commercial filmed by the Student Council at Gladys Wood Elementary School in Anchorage.
Gladys Wood is one of more than 150 Alaska elementary schools that signed up to participate in this fall’s Healthy Futures Challenge to get kids physically active and filling out activity logs for prizes.
This is Gladys Wood’s first time participating, and the students wanted to start off with a great effort. That’s where the commercial comes in.
“We really wanted to get the word out and get kids involved in the program,” said Wendy Zorea, student council advisor and fifth grade teacher.
They didn’t have a big production plan (they filmed it in one afternoon in September). They didn’t have an elaborate film crew (they used the talents and late-night touch-ups of Ms. Zorea). But they didn’t need any of that because they had enthusiasm and some creative tricks in mind. Be sure to watch for special effects and commercial credits that look straight out of Hollywood.
The kids came up with the activities to shoot, Ms. Zorea said. “We went in the gym. We went outside,” she said. “We just had fun with it.”
When they were all finished, the Student Council aired their commercial during the morning announcements. The school loved it.
So far this fall, almost 100 students from Gladys Wood have participated in the Healthy Futures Challenge. That’s what you get from a place with a ton of school spirit.
Thank you, Gladys Wood, for supporting the Play Every Day campaign and the Healthy Futures Challenge. We couldn’t do it without you. 

11/5/2013 12:10 PM

Daily play can help prevent diabetes.
Photo courtesy of NANANordic.
Walk up the stairs. Snack on carrot sticks instead of chips.Play Every Day before settling in for the night. Small daily changes like these can help control weight and prevent diabetes in children.
Just a few decades ago, health care providers called Type 2 diabetes “adult-onset diabetes” because it only appeared in adults, mostly in middle age. Not anymore. The incidence ofType 2 diabetes in children and adolescents has increased significantly. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted that one in three children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes in her or his lifetime.
How can we turn the tide?  Healthy eating and active living.
What can families do? Make manageable changes for good health. Cut down on screen time. Use smaller plates when you eat. Drink water instead of soda. Do errands on foot when possible. Sleep enough to feel rested. Pile on the vegetables. Join your children when they jump, run, ski, and play as part of the Healthy Futures Challenge.
The list can go on, and every small step leads to a healthier family.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2013-10</hide>October 2013 ‎(5)
10/29/2013 12:10 PM

Kikkan Randall stars in several PSA's encouraging kids to run, roll, glide, Play Every Day their way.
One second she’s riding a unicycle, the next she’s gliding on a pair of roller-skis.
Olympic cross-country skier Kikkan Randall is a fan of all types of activities.
This fall, she’s featured in two public service announcements motivating Alaska kids to pick an activity they like and do it during the Healthy Futures Challenge. The PSAs were made in partnership with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Healthy Futures and the United Way of Anchorage. You can view the PSAs here, here, and on your TV at home.
More than 150 elementary schools across Alaska have signed up for the physical activity challenge that started in September and concludes at the end of November. Participation numbers have broken records just a month into the three-month challenge. So far, 152 elementary schools across Alaska have signed up to participate, and 137 of them have turned in participation numbers. More than 12,100 children have completed at least one month of the challenge. That’s one out of six elementary school students across Alaska being physically active and tracking that activity each week!
Kids need to be active at least three days a week for four weeks in a row to successfully complete one month of the challenge and receive a cool prize that promotes activity. If they continue to be active all fall, they can complete all three months of the challenge, get three prizes and be entered for a grand-prize sports package of their choice.
The health department’s Play Every Day campaign partners with Healthy Futures to help Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for good health.
It’s not too late to sign up your child for the Challenge. Watch for anactivity log to come home from school with your children, or talk to their primary, PE or health teacher to learn more.

10/22/2013 12:11 PM

Running in costume can mean warmth, hilarity, renewed giddiness and the challenge of headgear.
It begins with a low groan – the wind, perhaps? – and soon grows into an ominous drone that rattles the bones.
You turn and peer into the darkness.
Zombies! – and behind them, a reptilian beast, three witches, scattered pirates, two superheroes, a handful of huggable monsters, and a sprinting robot chasing a fleeing hamburger.
Sounds like a good time to run/zoom/fly/creep/lurch away as fast as you can, buoyed by wing or cape, and tickled by the breeze at the back of your neck. Yes, it’s that time of year again for the monster mash-up of fun run and Halloween dress-up.
Through the rest of the month, kids of all ages can run through streets and trails, vying for “boos, oohs and ahs,” for tricks and treats, and for the thrill of racing in waning light and cooling night.
Events in Anchorage and Fairbanks offer several chances for getting physical this Saturday, October 26.  The Skinny Raven Frightening 4kstarts at 11 a.m. at the Captain Cook Hotel in downtown Anchorage and includes a costume contest for prizes, plus trick-or-treat aid stations every kilometer. Registration fees apply, but you can save money by joining as a family or team. 
Further north, the 32nd Halloween Family Run kicks off at 10 a.m. at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Center. The free event includes 2k (paved and flat) and 10k (hilly) races with time bonuses given to runners in costumes. 
Anchorage ghouls can continue scaring up the trails in the Bonny Sosa Tuesday Night Race Series Costume Run at 6:30 p.m. October 29 at Kincaid Park. Distances vary from a few kilometers to 10k, with registration fees of $2 for kids, $10 for families.
It may feel a bit chilly (and chilling) outside, but you’re definitely not alone.

10/15/2013 12:11 PM

This CDC graphic shows the equation for health and academic success.
It’s time for parent-teacher conferences in some Alaska school districts, and that means focusing on school work and academic progress. But don’t forget to talk about your child’s physical activity, too.
It turns out that recess, PE and after-school activities like dance, sports and gardening can play a big role in academic performance. Kids who do better in school are also more likely to be physically active on a regular basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In fact, a 2013 report by the Institute of Medicine, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that children who are more active have greater attention, do simple tasks quicker, have better working memories and problem-solving skills, and do better on standardized tests than less active children.
So when looking at your child’s progress in reading, math, and language arts, also talk about how to integrate 60 minutes of physical play into every day. Does your child walk to and from school, go to gym class, jog with the dogs, or join in after-school programs that get them moving?
How can you spend more time hiking, moving and playing with your children? Families that get active together get healthy together. What you do with your child counts.
Find out more through the CDC’s “The More They Burn the Better They Learn” material, and check out Alaska’s Healthy Futures Challenge as a way to jumpstart an active life with your children.

10/8/2013 12:12 PM

Kikkan Randall joins a young athlete in racing across a field. Photo courtesy of the Boys and Girls Club.
Have you watched Alaska athletes play on TV lately?
The Play Every Day campaign is running a 30-second public service announcement in Alaska that earned national recognition in September. The National Public Health Information Coalition awarded a silver medal to the Play Every Day PSA, a public health message that features four top Alaska athletes showing and sharing what they do to get out and play every day.
The department filmed the PSA during several seasons over the past year. In it, Olympic skier Kikkan Randall – fresh off her World Cup Sprint Championship – skies through the Anchorage woods. Laura Ingham – a two-time Alaska Basketball Player of the Year during high school – shoots hoops in a local gym. Scotty Gomez, two-time Stanley Cup winner, skates across the ice in his hometown. Olympic skier Holly Brooks, who has also won the Mt. Marathon running race, runs up the mountainside along Turnagain Arm.
These athletes have their favorite ways to play. What’s yours?
It doesn’t matter WHAT you do, it just matters that you get out and play. Our kids need at least 60 minutes of activity every day. Parents can help them get that activity in fun ways, indoors or outdoors.
Anchorage children helped us record a similar message for radio stations across Alaska. Listen to how they play every day.

10/1/2013 12:13 PM

PE teacher Michel Woods of Abbott Loop hoists a trophy to get students excited about the Challenge.
Michel Woods pulled over a plastic chair, stood on top of it in the middle of the school gym, and raised a trophy half his size over his head.
This, he told hundreds of Abbott Loop Elementary students, is your prize if everyone in your classroom — including your teacher — completes the Healthy Futures Challenge during each month.
Mr. Woods wasn’t even supposed to be the center of attention at the school assembly. That role went to Olympic skier Kikkan Randall, who visited Abbott Loop and three other Anchorage elementary schools this fall to get the students excited about participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge. But Mr. Woods got the kids excited with the trophy, and Abbott Loop joined 150 other schools across Alaska in undertaking the Challenge. Abbott Loop finished in fourth place among large elementary schools for total participation last spring with about 86 percent of its children completing the Challenge.
A PE teacher at Abbott Loop for 21 years, Mr. Woods believes that all of his students should have valor and good character, and they should all get out and play every day. That’s why he’s a big supporter of the Healthy Futures Challenge. The school’s principal, Arthur Sosa, also supports the Challenge and keeps his own Healthy Futures activity log hanging on his office door. His log showed he jogged Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday AND Friday the first week.
To complete the Challenge, a student must finish at least 30 minutes of physical activity outside of gym class three days a week for four weeks in a row. The September Challenge finishes this week, but kids can continue in October and November, and again during the spring challenge starting in February. The Healthy Futures Challenge is one way to help Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for good health.
Is your child’s school joining the Abbott Loop Wildcats in the Healthy Futures Challenge? Visit the Healthy Futures website for a list of participating schools.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2013-09</hide>September 2013 ‎(4)
9/24/2013 12:14 PM

Chef Rob Kinneen serving up healthy foods before his presentation on how to mix locally grown foods with store-bought ingredients.
When you talk about raising healthy kids in Alaska, you look at what they are eating, where they are playing, and how they are being active.
So it only makes sense that during the first Childhood Obesity Prevention and Child Health Summit held in Anchorage last week, the focus was about our home: The food was prepared by local Alaska Native chef Rob Kinneen, some of the key presenters live right here in Alaska, and more than 90 people from Ketchikan to Nome came to talk about how
we can help kids stay healthy.
The Alaska Alliance for Healthy Kids, a new statewide group committed to preventing childhood obesity in Alaska, held the summit on Sept. 16 and 17 at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. The group spent most of its time focusing on the four priorities identified in the Alliance’sStrategic Plan to Address Childhood Obesity in Alaska:
  • Promoting high quality, comprehensive physical and health education for Alaska students;
  • Promoting the adoption of evidence-based guidelines for prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment of overweight and obesity by primary health care providers;
  • Improving access to healthy choices and healthy environments for parents and children, to increase healthy eating, physical activity and breastfeeding; and
  • Maintaining a comprehensive public education campaign to promote physical activity and other health messages for children and their families.
Chef Rob Kinneen prepared meals made from Alaska salmon and locally grown potatoes. He demonstrated how you can mix Alaska-grown foods with store-bought items to create a healthy salsa.
Mouhcine Guettabi, assistant professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, gave an engaging talk about the medical costs of childhood obesity. Dr. Guettabi has a work agreement with the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to determine estimates of the economic costs of childhood obesity in Alaska.
He presented a review of journal articles that have explored this issue nationally. He concluded that childhood obesity carries a significant cost in direct medical expenses, but even higher costs in indirect expenses over the long run, such as being absent from work, having lower wages and losing productivity. Considering that many obese children grow up to be obese adults, the cost of childhood obesity continues and grows as the child ages, creating a substantial bill down the road.
“A lot of the costs are incurred later in life,” Guettabi said. He said the possible savings are “immense” if childhood obesity can be prevented at an early age and the children grow up to be adults with healthy weights.
Workgroups with the Alaska Alliance for Healthy Kids will continue to meet throughout this fiscal year to focus on and advance the four priority areas.

9/17/2013 12:14 PM

Elementary students getting ready to race at one of Anchorage's fall jamborees.
By Cindy Norquest
It’s that time of year again — time for the cross country jamborees for Anchorage elementary schools! Picture fallen leaves that crunch underfoot , the sound of thousands of little feet pounding the paths, and hundreds of happy smiles. You can understand why this is one of the most popular events for kids.
So what exactly are the Jamborees?
Hosted by the Anchorage School District and Healthy Futures, the elementary cross country jamborees are a FREE opportunity for all K-6 grade youth—no matter their abilities — to experience cross country running and walking in a noncompetitive environment.  Distances depend on age, but vary from a half-mile for the younger kids to one mile for the older kids. The atmosphere is family-friendly , where parents are encouraged to stay around to cheer on the last child crossing the finish line.
To prepare students for the jamborees, many elementary school PE and health teachers volunteer their time to coach cross country practices, and they send Jamboree registration information home with their students. 
While same-day registration is available, students are encouraged to register for their designated jamboree through their school. Schools are assigned a specific jamboree to attend based on geographic location. While students are encouraged to attend their school’s designated jamboree, the students can participate in the jamboree of their choice if scheduling conflicts arise.
The three jamborees take place on the following dates and times:
  • Beach Lake Trails Jamboree at Chugiak High School, September 19 from 5 to 7:45 p.m.  It serves all schools located in Eagle River, Birchwood and Chugiak.
  • North Anchorage Jamboree at East High School, September 20 from 5 to 7:45 p.m. It serves all schools located north of Tudor Road.
  • South Anchorage Jamboree at Service High School, September 28 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. It serves all schools located south of Tudor Road.
Visit for additional information regarding the jamborees and other family-friendly community events. Please talk to your PE or health teacher for registration information.
See you on the trails!
Cindy Norquest is the program director for Healthy Futures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Healthy Futures has been promoting and encouraging childhood physical activity since 2003. For more information, visit

9/10/2013 12:15 PM

Rain puddles, fallen leaves, good friends — sometimes even fresh snow — make everyBonny Sosa Tuesday Night Race a joyful run for everyone. The cross country race series takes place on city trails at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, September 10 to November 5.
What began 46 years ago as a training program for the Alaska Methodist College (APU) ski team now draws people of all ages and goals. Over 1,300 

people showed up opening night last year, and the number of kids crossing the finish line keeps climbing.
The Healthy Futures effort to get kids active has grown the Munchkin league, which features the youngest racers and families, said Margaret Timmerman, recreation programmer for Anchorage Parks and Recreation. "In 1997, when I started, Munchkins would number under 75 runners. Now the numbers average 500 to 600."
Healthy Futures is an Alaska-based initiative founded in 2003 by the late Bonny Sosa and Sam Young to inspire and provide opportunities for Alaska’s children to play every day. Elementary school students who sign up for the Healthy Futures Challenge through their schools can record their physical activity in Munchkin runs of 1 to 2 miles long as part of their weekly Challenge goal. Racers in the recreational and competitive leagues navigate longer, twisting courses.
Whatever the distance, race walkers and runners, babes in backpacks and grandfathers in tow never know the course until race time, adding yet another element of surprise to the already unpredictable weather and terrain. Remarkably, only two Tuesday Night races have been cancelled in 46 years, said Timmerman, once due to staff illness and once last September due to high winds.
Timmerman offered this advice to newcomers and old timers alike: Get to the race early to secure parking, get to the starting line before 6:30 p.m., "and don’t ever complain to me that a child or stroller was in your way."
The Tuesday Night Race series takes place Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. September 10 to November 5, 2013 at Kincaid Park, Albrecht Fields and Service High School.
Here’s how you and your family can join the fun:
  • Print the 2013 race poster as a reminder of dates and locations.
  • Register online by 12:30 p.m. each race day. Online race fees are $2 for kids, $5 for adults, and $10 for families, with season passes available at $16 for youth, $30 for adults, and $60 for families.
  • Onsite registration will take place before the first three races only, with fees set at $5 for kids, $10 for adults, and $20 for families.
  • Race day check in runs from 5:30 to 6:10 p.m.
  • The races start at 6:30 p.m.
  • A drawing for a pair of running shoes will happen at the end of every race for those who turn in their finish cards.
  • The race series finishes with a final race and awards ceremony on Nov. 5.

9/3/2013 12:16 PM


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Olympic skier Kikkan Randall gets out and plays every day with Anchorage kids. (credit Boys and Girls Club)
We hope so. 

The September Healthy Futures Challenge begins this Sunday, September 8. Participation last spring hit record levels: 136 schools and almost 10,500 individual students. 

Even more schools have signed up to participate this fall throughout Alaska, with 145 elementary schools getting ready to kick off the Challenge this month. To find out if your child’s school is participating, look at the list of schoolsposted on the Healthy Futures

Here’s how kids complete the Challenge:
• Be physically active at least three days a week outside of gym class.
• Track your activity on a simple log form that the schools hand out.
• Turn the log in at school for a free, cool prize. 
• Do the Challenge again in October and November.

How can you get all those minutes? The possibilities are endless – you just have to get out and play. You could take a walk with your family on Monday. If you live in the Anchorage area, you could run in the Tuesday Night Race series. Don’t worry, for the youngest racers (called Munchkins), it’s a short-distance fun run through the woods. The point isn’t to win; it’s to get out, get active and have a great time together. On Thursday, you could play a game of hoops in the driveway after school. When there’s more time on the weekend, join your family for a hike on a local trail. To find other community events, visit the Healthy Futures calendar. 

Want more information? Read our post about the five simple steps to successfully complete the Challenge. At least 30 minutes of activity three days a week is needed to complete the challenge, but we’re not going to stop you if you do more! More is better. Kids need 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health. This fall, let’s see if we can get even more Alaska children to have fun and get out and play, every day. 

Take the Challenge!


collapse Published Month : <hide>2013-06</hide>June 2013 ‎(1)
6/11/2013 12:17 PM

Do you like walking and running on trails?
Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day for good health.
To help your child hit that hour mark, find fun ways to add more activity to their day.
Go for a walk together. Play a game of basketball in the driveway. Sign up for events in your community.
Make time to be physically active as a family. Get out and play with your kids every day.
See our lists of summer activities and indoor activities.
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collapse Published Month : <hide>2013-05</hide>May 2013 ‎(2)
5/21/2013 12:40 PM


Hockey player Scott Gomez encourages kids to be active.
This month, the Play Every Day campaign launched a new message on TV stations across Alaska.
Our local athletes helped us film it this winter and spring. 
Olympic skier Kikkan Randall – fresh off her World Cup Sprint Championship – glides up to the camera and says “I cross-country ski.”
Laura Ingham – a two-time Alaska Basketball Player of the Year during high school – dribbles up the court and says “I play basketball.”
Scotty Gomez, two-time Stanley Cup winner, skates out onto Anchorage ice and says “I play hockey.”
Olympic skier Holly Brooks, who has also won the Mt. Marathon running race, says, “I run up mountains.”
Then comes the big question: How do you play?
When it comes to getting physical activity every day for the best health, it really doesn’t matter WHAT you do, it just matters that you do it. Our kids need at least 60 minutes of activity every day. You can help them get that activity in fun ways, indoors or outdoors.
Watch our new Play Every Day message here. Then figure out what you want to do to get out and play.
Anchorage children helped us record a similar message for radio stations across Alaska. Listen to how they play every day.
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5/7/2013 12:40 PM

Orienteering is like treasure-hunting in the woods. Photo courtesy of Arctic Orienteering.
By Guest blogger Cindy Norquest
I recently had the opportunity to discover the family-friendly sport called orienteering. 
According to Arctic Orienteering, the sport is for anyone who’s game to try it: “Orienteering is the sport of cross country navigation using map and compass. To some it is a competitive race while to others it is a chance to get out and explore the countryside, challenge the mind, and enjoy the company. Either way, you are welcome to participate.”
Wanting to learn more about the sport described as “treasure hunting in the woods,” I spoke with members of the Arctic Orienteering Club. During the summer months, this dedicated group of volunteers hosts weekly meets for the community to enjoy. Healthy Futures — the program I direct — is making it possible for kids to orienteer for free this summer.
The people I talked with came to orienteering from different backgrounds, different abilities and were introduced to the sport at different ages. For Trond, a competitive athlete, his love of orienteering began as a child in Norway when his father introduced him to the sport around age eight. As Trond shared his experiences, the tone of his voice softened, leaving no doubt that lasting memories and a special bond were created while orienteering with his father.
Jen, a mother of a five-year-old boy, was introduced to orienteering by a love interest in college. Jen’s description of orienteering was poetic, leaving images of a mother and child experiencing the beauty of nature in a way that creates a lasting love of the outdoors and memories that evoke a smile. 
On the other hand, Joyce did not begin orienteering until her late forties. Joyce has a light-hearted view of orienteering, laughingly acknowledging she is a slower participant whose goal often includes finishing before all the cookies are gone.
As I spoke with all of them, I discovered more than a fun sport. I discovered a community of physically active people who like to personally challenge themselves and yet are welcoming of everyone no matter their ability. I knew that I had found a sport to try.
Now, how to start? Arctic Orienteering views training as part of their purpose and enthusiastically welcomes beginners and young people to take part in their weekly meets. One of the best ways to get started is to attend the free “Introduction to Orienteering” class at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at the BP Energy Center in Anchorage. Attendees will receive prizes and can win one of 10 season passes worth $90.
Cindy Norquest is the program director for Healthy Futures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Healthy Futures has been promoting and encouraging childhood physical activity since 2003. For more information, visit 

collapse Published Month : <hide>2013-04</hide>April 2013 ‎(5)
4/23/2013 12:41 PM

It’s great when you can get out and play and help others, too!
You can support healthy families and babies by participating in the March for Babies held Saturday, May 11, in Fairbanks and Juneau and Saturday, May 18, in Anchorage and Ketchikan.
In all communities, events start at 10 a.m. and consist of a 3-mile long walk.
Each year, more than 500,000 babies across the country are born too early, and 1,200 of them are born in Alaska. Babies who are born too soon are at risk for serious, and sometimes life-threatening, health problems.
The annual March for Babies March of Dimes event raises awareness and funds through registration and donations to help Alaska moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies. March for Babies supports programs in Alaska communities that work toward helping families have healthy babies. The time and energy you spend walking with your friends and families will support your physical fitness.
It’s great when you can get out and play and help others, too!
Sign up today for the March of Dimes March for Babies in your community. On Saturday, May 11, meet in Fairbanks at Doyon Limited or in Juneau at the Dimond Field House. A week later — Saturday, May 18 — meet in Anchorage at Westchester Lagoon or in Ketchikan at A & P Markets.  Each march starts with a 9 a.m. registration.
For more information, call (907) 276-4111. You can register online here for any of the four Alaska marches.  

4/15/2013 12:42 PM

Elders report that the two foot high kick was done to communicate a successful or unsuccessful catch after hunting in the spring. Photo byMichael Dinneen, courtesy of NYO Games
For thousands of years and countless generations, survival for Alaska Native people depended not only on individual strength, skill and knowledge, but also on the ability to work together toward common goals. Traditional athletic contests and games helped develop these skills critical to everyday life in the challenging Alaska environment.
Today’s Native Youth Olympic Games carry on in this spirit, encouraging young people to strive for their personal best while helping and supporting their teammates, and even other teams. While today’s world is very different than when the games originated, the skills and values they instill are just as important now as then. NYO Games Alaska helps to develop healthy lifestyles, positive self-esteem, leadership and teamwork, while promoting good sportsmanship and fostering a better understanding between diverse communities and cultures.
This year’s NYO Games are April 25 to 27 at Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage. Admission is free. Events include kneel jump, wrist carry, Alaskan high kick, Eskimo stick pull, toe kick, one-hand reach, two-foot high kick, Indian stick pull, one-foot high kick, and seal hop. Cheer on athletes. Go and get inspired to play every day!
More than 2,000 students from more than 50 communities across Alaska participate in the Native Youth and Junior Native Youth Olympic Games each year. NYO is open to youth from all backgrounds.
Want to try this at home? Prepare for next year? The 2013 NYO Handbookincludes demonstration photos and brief histories for the games. 
University of Alaska Anchorage students enrolled in an internship with Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s NYO Games Alaska collected histories about the games:
The Alaskan High Kick was played inside in the winter to help develop coordination, upper body strength, and concentration, according athlete Nicole Johnston of Nome.
Donna Elliot of Bethel, a long time NYO participant and official, said the wrist carry shows the significance of a successful hunt and traditionally tests the strength and endurance of hunters and appreciation for the animal giving itself.
Shelia Randazzo of Shishmaref shared that the Toe Kick teaches individuals to be light on their feet, like when jumping from ice patch to ice patch. Read more histories.
For more information, visit Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s website. Click here for a schedule of events. Watch live on
And don’t forget, this is the final week of the April Healthy Futures Challenge. Be sure to complete and turn in your logs! 

4/9/2013 12:43 PM

Incorporate aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities into your routine.
We encourage you and your family to play every day – children and youth should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day for good health. What should that play look like? Does it matter if your kids do the same type of activity every day?
To grow fit and strong, healthy kids need to do an assortment of activities. Children should participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age and ability, that are enjoyable, and that offer variety.
Incorporate aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities into your routine. Some activities can fit into more than one type of category. Mix and match so youth get each type of activity at least three days a week. Learn more in the physical activity guidelines for Americans and the youth fact sheet on physical activity guidelines.


Types of Physical Activity and Examples of Activities

  • Moderate–intensity aerobic (allows you to talk, but not sing, while being active):
    • Active recreation, such as hiking, skateboarding, and rollerblading
    • Bicycle riding
    • Brisk walking
    • Dancing
  • Vigorous–intensity aerobic (allows you to say only a few words without catching your breath)
    • Active games involving running and chasing, such as tag
    • Martial arts
    • Running
    • Sports, such as skiing, skating, soccer, swimming, and tennis
  • Muscle-strengthening
    • Games such as tug-of-war
    • Swinging on playground equipment/bars
    • Sit-ups (curl-ups or crunches) and push-ups or modified push-ups (with knees on floor)
    • Resistance exercises using body weight or resistance bands
    • Swinging on playground equipment/bars
  • Bone-strengthening
    • Games, such as hopscotch
    • Skipping
    • Jumping rope
    • Running, so a game of tag or sports such as soccer and basketball

4/5/2013 12:44 PM

The Alaska Heart Run is a great family event. 
Photo courtesy of Rick Boots
Yes, there’s still snow on the ground in Anchorage and many other communities in Alaska. 
But many people think of theAlaska Heart Run as the first big running event that signals spring. So, today, let’s think spring and think about registering for this popular walk and run event that raises money for the American Heart Association. Funds are used in the fight against heart disease and stroke.
The Heart Run is a great family event. Elite athletes aim for record times, but most participants come out to enjoy the fun. This year’s Alaska Heart Run celebrates their 35th anniversary on Saturday, April 27. The timed race starts at 9:30 a.m. and the untimed run and walk start at 10 a.m. The timed race is five kilometers long. The untimed run or walk is 5K or 3K. The three kilometer distance is great for kids – bring them along! The Heart Run starts at the University of Alaska Anchorage Arts Building parking lot, at 3211 Providence Drive in Anchorage.
Registration for the timed Heart Run remains open for another week and a half. Registration is accepted online, in person or through paper, but all forms of registration for the timed race end at midnight Saturday, April 20. After that date, a late fee will be applied when registering for the untimed event.  To  register online, click here. More event information can be found here.
Sign up today to run or walk at the Heart Run! You’ll do something good for your health, and for the health of others.
To find a running and walking event in your area, search the Alaska Runners Calendar.

4/2/2013 12:45 PM

Olympic skier Kikkan Randall gets kids motivated to play every day.
You say “Kikkan Randall” these days and people think of a fast and fierce Olympic athlete. She’s wearing skis on her feet. Sometimes she’s wearing pink highlights in her hair.
But you don’t often hear this one: Oh, and she’s riding in on her unicycle.
Alaska’s top skier has a fun streak and she brought it to a new television message that’s airing across Alaska for the Healthy Futures Challenge. 
Last fall, Kikkan held assemblies at a number of Alaska schools to cheer on the children as they started the Healthy Futures Challenge. She rode in on her unicycle. She showed off how her dedication to physical activity turned into a World Cup trophy. Then she encouraged Alaska children to follow through on their activity goals and fill out the Healthy Futures Challenge logs at their schools. We captured that excitement in TV and radio messages, and now Kikkan’s message is reaching Alaska parents all across the state. Take 30 seconds and watch her message below.
April is the final month for the Healthy Futures Challenge during the 2012-2013 school year (Don’t worry: It’s coming back this fall!). About 150 schools across Alaska signed up this spring. These schools are in 34 of the 55 school districts across Alaska. There’s a good chance your child’s school is one of them.
It’s not too late for your children to be physically active, log their activity on the simple Healthy Futures form they receive at school, and win a prize for sticking with the challenge. Find out if your child’s school is signed up the Challenge and encourage your children to be active each week.  
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collapse Published Month : <hide>2013-03</hide>March 2013 ‎(4)
3/26/2013 12:45 PM

Congratulations to Allison, pictured here with her parents, and all the grand prize winners of the Healthy Futures Challenge.
We’ve just passed the midpoint of the spring Healthy Futures Challenge in a record 149 elementary schools across Alaska.
The numbers are still coming in from participating schools, but many children in Alaska have participated in at least one month of the three-month physical activity challenge.
There’s a big reward for children who show endurance – children who can stick with this healthy habit of regular physical activity and complete all three months of the challenge.
Children who turn in a log for February, March and April are entered into a random drawing for four, $300 grand prizes that be used on sports equipment or physical activity programs. In the past, children have used the prize money to buy cross country ski equipment, swim lessons, even Irish dance lessons, says Cindy Norquest, Healthy Futures program director.
Kindergartener Allison Galloway of Rabbit Creek Elementary School won one of the grand prizes from the fall 2012 Healthy Futures Challenge. She and her family used the money to pay for downhill ski lessons at Hilltop Ski Area in Anchorage. Watch the news story about Allison by KTVA Channel 11.
What would you do if you won a $300 sports package?

3/19/2013 12:46 PM

BMI is a good way to tell if your child is overweight. Talk to your health care provider today to learn more.
You’re probably familiar with your doctor measuring your child’s weight.
Depending on what clinic you go to, the doctor, nurse, or community health aide will ask your child to take off his or her shoes and stand on a scale. A number shows up to tell you your child’s body weight.
But what about their BMI?
Your health care provider can talk to you BMI, too. BMI is an abbreviation for body mass index. It provides a good estimate of how much of your child’s body is made up of fat.
BMI also is an important number to predict if your child is at risk for weight-related health problems. These problems — such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes — can begin in childhood if a child is above a healthy weight.
Body mass index is a calculation that factors in two main measurements: height and weight. For children, body mass index also varies depending on your child’s gender, male or female, and your child’s age, considering that children’s bodies frequently change as they grow older.
There are reliable and easy-to-use tools online that will quickly calculate your child’s BMI. We’ve posted a calculator from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on our Play Every Day website.
If you’ve learned your child’s BMI, or want help calculating it, please talk with your health care provider about what your child’s body mass index may mean for your child’s health. Your provider can help you and your family make the best decisions to help your child achieve the best possible health and stay at a healthy weight. 

3/12/2013 12:47 PM

Canine athletes get out and play every day. Photo courtesy of T.S. Lenahan
It’s this time of year when we notice that the winter has been upon us for a long time. Months now. It’s been snowy and blowy. It’s been cold and it’s been dark.
But wait: The sun’s staying out longer and longer these days, and it’s bright and yellow in that sky, calling us to get out and play.
For the past week, hundreds of huskies have been running from Anchorage to Nome on the great quest of the Iditarod race.
The fastest and hardiest of those dogs will be crossing that finish line soon, wagging their tails with excitement even after all of their effort along the way. They definitely got their 60 minutes of activity each day, and then some!
It’s fun to challenge ourselves with physical activities, and there’s so much we can be doing this time of year to get out and play. Snow fell in the past few weeks across Alaska, leaving plenty for snowballs that can turn into snowmen. There are fresh trails for skiing and tracks for sledding at hills in local parks. Kids are skating on lagoons, where ice shines bright under the sunshine.
While the husky dogs are running the Iditarod, yellow labs, golden retrievers and collies are getting their exercise by joining their families on a walk around the neighborhood.
There are so many ways to play. If you’re looking for creative ideas, visit our list of cold weather activities. If it’s late at night, or too cold to go outdoors, there are plenty of ways to get moving inside, too.
Have fun!

3/5/2013 12:47 PM


Anchorage student Greta puts her swim cap on in the car so she’s ready to go swimming as soon as they arrive at the pool.
Greta is a 9-year-old student at Polaris K-12 in Anchorage. She makes sure she gets her “Healthy Half Hour” every day as part of the Healthy Futures Challenge. During each month of the Challenge, children like Greta keep a log of their physical activities outside of gym class.
Participating in the Challenge gets kids closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutesof physical activity every day for the best health.
One way Greta gets exercise during Alaska’s long winter months is swimming. She also likes to walk the dog with her mom, dance and ski. “I love it,” she says about playing. “It’s just fun.” She encourages everyone to gather their friends and go outside. “Play is good,” she adds, laughing.
The March Healthy Futures Challenge started yesterday, March 3, in a record 149 schools. Are you getting your healthy half hour? Find out if your child's school is signed up for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge. 


Watch the video below to learn more about Greta's Healthy Half Hour.
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Greta's Healthy Half Hour from AlaskaDHSS on Vimeo.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2013-02</hide>February 2013 ‎(5)
2/26/2013 12:57 PM


Mao Tosi and his daughter enjoy a sled ride together.
Last year, we invited parents throughout Alaska to talk to us about physical activity for their families.
The national recommendation for children’s physical activity is 60 minutes each day for the best health.
We wanted to know if parents build in time each day for their family to be active. And if they did, what kinds of benefits did they think they’d see?
A parent in rural Alaska said parents want to make the best decisions for their kids, and when they do that, they are a hero to their children.
A hero.
Parents in Alaska said they wanted to make decisions that would help their children be happy and healthy, and have good self-esteems. Making sure their children are physically active every day is a great way to do that.
You may have seen a TV public service announcement we’re running about making physical activity a priority for the whole family, and the good things that come from that for everyone. The father in this announcement is Mao Tosi and his daughter. Mao is an Anchorage dad and businessman, and a local advocate for children. As he says at the end, "Be a hero to your kids. Get out and play, every day."
Watch Mao and his daughter get out and play in this PSA. How can you find more ways to be physically active with your children?
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2/15/2013 12:58 PM

Anya and Spencer enjoy playing on the playground year round. 
By Guest Blogger Carey Carpenter
It’s taken us 25 minutes to put on all of the snow clothes, but we are finally ready, I think. The kids start to whine that they are getting really hot so I rush everyone outside. I take a deep breath and the cold crisp air fills my lungs. I stare off into the majestic mountains that surround us in every direction in Anchorage and I realize how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place. It makes me want to show my kids all of the magnificence and all of the fun we can have together. I want to build memories of laughing with them while we sled down a snow-covered winter hill.
My two-year old snaps me back into reality by screaming that she can’t get herself into the sled. I calmly walk over, and pick her up, and set her right where she wants to go.
Today I will pull the kids in the sled to the park, where we’ll make snow angels and tracks for each other to follow in the snow. We’ll end the outing at home, as we do every snowy activity, with a warm cup of hot chocolate.

Prioritize and fight cabin fever

Every day with your kids matters and most of the days are filled with so many things on your to do list, how do you get it all in?
It’s about prioritizing. Every morning I stop and think about what I need to do that day and every day I make sure I plan in playtime with my kids. There is not enough time in a week for me to accomplish all of the fun activities I want to do with my family. So we see what the weather is like and we plan our activities accordingly.
Getting outside helps everyone fight off cabin fever and getting just 15 minutes of sunshine while it’s out during the darker winter months can help beat back the winter blues.
Just because it’s not T-shirt weather out there doesn’t mean you should forget about the great outdoors until the ground thaws. There are plenty of things that you can do outside during the winter.

Don’t let the colder temps scare you

There is a fabulous Meetup group on called Skeddadle and they have multiple weekly outdoor events all year round. It’s a great way to get outside and meet other parents and kids that want to do the same thing. Or you can throw on your snow clothes and grab a thermos of hot soup and head out to one of the parks for a winter picnic.
Just because it's not T-shirt weather, doesn't mean you should forget about the great outdoors.
Don’t let the colder temperatures scare you away from other outdoor places like the Alaska Zoo. During the winter you can walk or sled along the trails and at night view all of the “Zoo Lights” or during the day the zoo hosts activities in the heated greenhouse like music playtime on Mondays or preschool story time on Wednesdays. The kids are happier, they sleep better, and they eat better when we get outside.
Sometimes it’s just too cold or windy outside, then I’ll pick one of our favorite indoor activities during the day like open field time at the Dome or at Arctic Gymnastics if I want to burn off a lot of energy.
There are also activities for working parents with kids like going toBouncing Bears playing at the Imaginarium in the museum, swimming at theAlaska Club or H2Oasis or, my 5-year old son’s new favorite, bowling. Then there are the days we want to curl up with books and sing songs like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” so we head to the library lapsit reading time at theLoussac.

Lifelong gift to my kids

Through exercise, Carey Carpenter 
(with survivor sash) has learned how 
to push herself beyond limits she thought was possible.
Teaching my kids to play every day is a lifelong gift that I can give to them. Teaching them to enjoy the outdoors year round will create precious memories and the happiness in the moment is priceless. Everyone has only one body that needs to last our whole lives. Exercise is a crucial piece to staying healthy and feeling good.
Through exercise I have learned how to push myself beyond limits that I thought were possible. I want my kids to know that kind of physical and emotional strength because with that, I believe, they can navigate anything that life throws their way.
Ask my kids what they think of all of the activities we do and they’ll tell you emphatically that they love it. If we skip a few play dates then they start asking questions about when we can do so-and-so again. Getting them out of the house is key to keeping everyone sane and happy. And they get exposed to all sorts of different healthy activities. They are better behaved when they get out and play.
In the end, I know that how I spend every day of my life is, of course, how I will have spent my life and I want it to count. Every day I try to get out and play, for me and for my children.
Carey Carpenter is breast-cancer survivor and mother of two living in Anchorage.

Anchorage and Alaska Kid-Friendly Activity Resources:

2/12/2013 1:02 PM

Alaska Pacific University skier Kate Fitzgerald helps students at Ravenwood Elementary School kick off the spring 2013 Healthy Futures Challenge.
Ravenwood Elementary School in Eagle River encourages its students to play every day and complete the Healthy Futures Challenge. Almost 90 percent of Ravenwood students completed the fall 2012 challenge. Way to go, Ravenwood!
Physical education teacher Caela Nielsen helps the children at Ravenwood complete the challenge and have a lot of fun doing it.
The students at Ravenwood helped kickoff the spring Healthy Futures Challenge last week. During the kickoff event, Healthy Futures program director Cindy Norquest presented Ravenwood with a check for $750 for having the highest participation of a large school in the fall 2012 Healthy Futures Challenge. More than 300 of Ravenwood’s 428 students finished all three months of the fall challenge, which ran September through November 2012. Ms. Nielsen requires all of her students to participate in the Healthy Futures Challenge to earn a good effort grade. She also keeps activity log forms for the Challenge in her classroom for older students to fill out at school.
During the kickoff event, an energetic class of fifth-graders demonstrated Ravenwood’s Festivus Fitness – a fun activity routine that Ms. Nielsen uses to encourage her students to improve their physical fitness. All students do as many sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks and burpees as they can in 30 seconds. Every month, Ms. Nielsen has them do these exercises again to measure progress.
And what about the kindergarteners? These young kids at Ravenwood demonstrated a dance-off, showing their moves to a popular pop song.
Ravenwood’s having a blast doing the Healthy Futures Challenge. Is your school signed up? Find out by visiting the Healthy Futures website.

2/8/2013 1:03 PM

Join the festivies for all skills and abilities.
There’s snow on the ground, which means great skiing for the kids! Bring your family to the annual Ski 4 Kids event in Anchorage Saturday, Feb. 9, and show them just how fun winter sports can be.
Ski 4 Kids Day is a festive winter day full of events at Kincaid Park for children through 14 years old.  Fundraising and awareness efforts combine obstacle courses, a mock-biathlon, and series of races to tempt and tantalize kids of all ages. The ultimate goal is to help develop an appreciation of winter outdoor sports and to promote fitness for Anchorage area youth.
There is no set participant fee for Ski 4 Kids, just a donation of your choice. Proceeds from the event directly benefit the Anchorage Parks and Recreation’s ski Outreach Program and an NSAA grant program that provides ski equipment to schools and youth organizations.
You can register your children in-person on the day of the event, but you also can register beforehand by going to Anchorage Nordic Ski Club website.

2/5/2013 1:04 PM

Kikkan Randall challenges you and your family to get out and play every day.
The Challenge is on!
The February Healthy Futures Challenge begins this week. The great news is 142 schools teaching elementary ages have signed up for the spring challenge. That includes schools from Kaltag to Kenai to Ketchikan to Kodiak. To find out if your child’s school is participating, look at the list of schools posted on the Healthy Futures website.
See our post about the five simple steps to successfully complete the Challenge. Haven’t received the log yet?Download the log online.
At least 30 minutes of activity three days a week is needed for the challenge, but we’re not going to stop you if you do more! More is better. Kids need 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health.
Sample activities:
  • Monday – Walk the dog (45 minutes)
  • Wednesday – Dance Party! (20 minutes). Walk around the block (10 minutes)
  • Friday – Sledding (30 minutes)
  • Saturday – Ice skating and a bit of hockey at the neighborhood ice rink (60 minutes)
Last fall, more than 9,800 children across Alaska completed the challenge. This spring, let’s see if we can get more than 10,000 Alaska children to have fun and get out and play, every day.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2013-01</hide>January 2013 ‎(5)
1/29/2013 1:04 PM

Do the Healthy Futures Challenge together as a family. Help your child fill out the activity log.
It’s time for Alaska’s Healthy Futures Challenge. Starting Sunday, Feb. 3, 142 elementary schools across the state will encourage kids to get out and play every day. The Challenge is fun and free. To find out if your child’s school is participating, look at the list of schools posted on the Healthy Futures website.
Each school has a slightly different way of completing the Challenge, but many schools send the logs home to parents so families can keep track of a child’s physical activity together. Parents of children who attend elementary schools may get a folder that comes home in their child’s backpack.
Watch for the Healthy Futures log that will be coming your way soon, if it hasn’t already come home with your child.
Follow these simple steps to successfully complete the Healthy Futures Challenge:
  1. Keep the log in a place you can remember. For instance, stick it on the refrigerator with a magnet.
  2. Every day your child is physically active at least 30 minutes, have your child color in the day on the log, or write down what activity he or she did.
  3. Keep documenting activities during the four weeks of the monthly Challenge. To successfully complete the Challenge, a child needs to have at least 3 days filled in each week, for 4 weeks in a row.
  4. When the log is complete, send it back to your child’s teacher.
  5. Enjoy the prize your child receives for being active. Maybe he’ll let you play with it, too!
The Healthy Futures Challenge repeats again in March and April. If your children do all three Challenges, they will win three prizes – one for each month.
We’re approaching a record number of children signing up for the Challenge. We hope your family joins. We can all benefit from being more physically active.

1/22/2013 1:05 PM

Healthy Futures program director Cindy Norquest and her daughters.
For more than four years, I have been the program director of an enthusiastic grassroots group called Healthy Futures.
Healthy Futures was created by two Alaska parents who were concerned about the health of Alaska’s children.  Over time, it evolved into the signature program of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.  Our mission is to empower Alaska’s children to build the habit of daily physical activity into their lives.
We do this through three programs:
  • Running a Physical Activity Log Challenge through Alaska schools.
  • Supporting community events by making them fun and affordable for Alaska families.
  • Working with positive, physically active Alaska role models. (Think of our Olympic skiers, Kikkan Randall and Holly Brooks, among so many others.)
In 2011, we partnered for the first time with the Department of Health and Social Services. We work together on the Healthy Futures Physical Activity Challenge that’s offered twice a year through Alaska schools, once in the fall and again in the spring. The Challenge is a way to reward students for being physically active over a three-month period.  The next Challenge will run February, March and April. 
During the Challenge, students record their physical activity on a Healthy Futures Activity Log for four weeks.  At the end of the four weeks, students turn in their completed activity logs to their school coordinator – typically the PE or health teacher – to receive an incentive for being active. Students who complete all three activity logs during the Challenge are entered into a grand prize drawing.  Four grand prize drawings are offered each Challenge period.  The grand prize is $300 that can go toward lessons (like swimming or other sports), registration fees, or any equipment that promotes physical activity.  In addition, schools with the highest level of student participation can win cash prizes up to $1,500 per year to spend on physical education equipment.
Parents can support the Challenge by volunteering at their school to help collect activity logs, pick up and/or deliver incentives, and by being physically active with their child every day.  To find out if your school is registered for the spring challenge, visit Thank you for working with us to help our kids get active and healthy!
Cindy Norquest is the program director for Healthy Futures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Healthy Futures has been promoting and encouraging childhood physical activity since 2003. Alaska parents concerned about the growing obesity problem in Alaska founded Healthy Futures. For more information,

1/15/2013 1:05 PM

Susitna Elementary School PE teacher Ben Elbow and his daughter
Kids need to move. I know because I see it every day as an elementary school physical education teacher. I see the spring in the step of an 8-year-old boy when he suddenly jumps up to touch the top of a doorframe. I see the grins on their faces when kids walk through the doors of the gym and immediately start running and jumping and skipping and dancing. I see the joy in my daughter’s smile when she gets to the bottom of the sledding hill. Kids need to move. And it’s our job as parents to make sure they play every day for at least an hour.
Looking for more justification? About three out of ten children in Alaska are overweight or obese. Weighing too much can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes – even in childhood. So what can we do about that? Get out and play. National health experts recommend that children get 60 minutes of daily physical activity for good health.
One of the best ways to encourage your children to move and play is to join them.  Walk the neighborhood, giving you a chance to stretch your legs, relax your mind, and catch up on life with your kids. Take them out and shovel the neighbor’s driveway. They’ll burn off some energy and learn the value of a good deed. Take a family sledding trip to a local park. Don’t have time to join them? While you cook dinner, send the kids outside to build a sledding hill in your yard, make the world’s greatest snowman, or just play hide and seek. They’ll have a warm dinner waiting for them when they come inside.
Your kids are happy when they move and play. They’re healthier when they move and play. Did you know that regular movement and exercise also improves children’s brain activity and may lead to higher test scores in school? Happier, healthier, and smarter? What’s not to love?
Kids need to move. Let’s make sure we help them do it.
Ben Elbow is a physical education teacher at Susitna Elementary School in Anchorage, Alaska.

1/8/2013 1:07 PM

How do you like to play?
Dr. Ward Hurlburt, Alaska's Chief Medical Officer, doesn't mince words when he talks about childhood obesity in Alaska.
Alaska's top doctor calls obesity and overweight in children the dominant public health challenge of this generation.
If obesity starts early, it is likely to stick around. Obese children are more likely to grow up into obese adults and face a number of crippling chronic conditions, like heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
Some health leaders predict that if nothing changes, this generation of children could be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Just how large is the problem here?
About three out of 10 kids in Alaska are overweight.
We can fix this. 
Help us raise awareness about this problem and the risks to our children. We can work together to raise healthy children in Alaska: Talk about the problem. Take action. Be physically active with your kids.
Physically active children become physically active adults. Play helps kids maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, stress and cancer. Kids who are physically active are more likely to do better in school. Families who play together become closer. 
We all need to work together to help Alaska's children be as healthy as possible. Please join us in encouraging Alaska's kids to get out and play, every day.

1/1/2013 1:07 PM

Dr. Ward Hurlburt
Chief Medical Officer
Alaska Division of Public Health
This is Ward Hurlburt, the Chief Medical Officer for Alaska.
Happy New Year! Have you set any resolutions for being healthy, losing weight, or helping your kids build habits for good health? If so, join our Play Every Day campaign.
The Play Every Day message is simple: We all need to play -- or be physically active -- every day to be as healthy as possible and maintain a healthy weight. Kids should play for at least 60 minutes every day for the best health possible. Play can look pretty much any way you want it to look. Walk to the local park and take some sledding runs down the hill. Ice skate. Ski. Go for a walk. Play a game of tag with your kids after school. Have a dance party in your living room.
One great way to get your family started off right this year is to participate in the Healthy Futures Challenge. Over 100 elementary schools across Alaska are participating. Visit the Healthy Futures website to find out if your child’s school is one of them. Participation is fun and free, and children win prizes for being active.
The 2013 Spring Healthy Futures Challenge starts at the beginning of each month during February, March and April. To win all three prizes, kids must participate each month.
So let’s get out and play. See you out there!