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President George W. Bush jogs past the Washington Monument. White House photo. President George W. Bush jogs past the Washington Monument.

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The President's Fitness Agenda

Nearly half of American adults report that they do not exercise at all, and seven out of ten do so infrequently. Each year, approximately 300,000 deaths are related to obesity. In addition, five chronic diseases associated with obesity-heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes-claim more than 1.7 million American lives each year and account for more than two-thirds of all U.S. deaths.

The rate of increase in obesity among America's youth has been especially steep. This trend is particularly troubling because many of the behaviors that lead to adult obesity are established during childhood. Medical complications associated with obesity in children can lead to hospitalization for diabetes, sleep apnea, and asthma. And since 1980, the percentage of children who are overweight has nearly doubled, and the percentage of adolescents who are overweight has nearly tripled.

Next week the President will unveil a comprehensive fitness agenda to help our nation become stronger and healthier. The President's initiative will have several key elements - engaging in regular physical activity, taking in proper nutrition, getting early screening for diseases, and making healthy choices such as avoiding tobacco, alcohol and drugs. For each element, the President will challenge Americans to take the appropriate steps to promote basic health and fitness, and the President's message will be that "every little bit counts."

As part of the agenda, the President is proud to announce today that the Department of Interior will host a Fee-Free Weekend in our National Parks the weekend of June 22-23 to encourage Americans to hike, walk or just visit our national treasures.

Next Thursday, June 20, the President will host a health and fitness fair on the South Lawn of the White House. At the fair the President will introduce the new members of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and discuss more details of his fitness initiative. Participants will include health and fitness experts, local school children, and senior citizens who will be participating in the Fitness Council programs. On the South Lawn there will be at least 15 different health and fitness stations. Participants will be able to have their blood pressure and cholesterol measured and will be able to be screened for diabetes. There will be fitness exhibits, including an exhibit promoting our national parks. There will also be an interactive booth to help participants improve their nutrition.

On Friday, June 21, the President will travel to Orlando, Florida, where he will visit with seniors at a local seniors center to discuss his fitness initiative and the value of age-appropriate physical activity to promote healthy aging.

On Saturday, June 22, the President and First Lady will host the President's Fitness Challenge at Fort McNair for White House staff and the Cabinet. At the Fitness Challenge the President will lead runners in a 3-mile run and the First Lady will lead walkers in a 1.5-mile walk. To participate in the race, participants must commit to donate hours of service or resources to the community or faith organization of their choice. The President has chosen to make this the entrance fee for the Fitness Challenge in accordance with his call on Americans to help their communities and our most vulnerable citizens by committing to serving significant time for others.

On Sunday, June 23, the South Berkeley Little League Braves of Inwood, West Virginia will play the Washington, D.C. Cal Ripken League Cardinals in the 2nd game of this year's White House tee ball season. At the game the President will encourage parents to help ensure that their children are getting regular exercise and eating a balanced diet.