Blind Mount Everest climber Eric Weihenmayer lost his eye sight at the age of 13 and in his early 30s, voluntarily had his eyes removed and replaced with glass eyes so that eye tissue sensitivity would not be an issue in accomplishing his goal — to become the first blind climber to reach the top of Mount Everest. According to Pasquale Scaturro, Weihenmayer's guide on the climb and also the first man to raft the entire Nile River, he has never seen such dedication by a climber, who was virtually guided to the top of the mountain only by the sound of bells on the walking sticks surrounding him in his trek. 
            Does the phrase, "never quit" come to mind? Does this sound like a textbook example of individuals who live by the personal mandate, "never quit"? Do you wonder where bigger-than-life individuals, such as these, get their motivation to plan, execute, continue and FINISH what they started and demand the ultimate in physical fitness and health?
            "It's just part of who I am and what I am," said Scaturro about both his Nile River expedition and the Everest climb with Eric Weihenmayer. "I never quit what I start. I just don't. I know the value of what I am doing before I start, and I never let go of that," he said.
So, What's Up America? 
            What's up with our health and fitness, and why have we "let go" of what should be the most important component of our lives — our individual health and fitness. Borrowing a phrase from resident massage therapist from Personal Best at Denver WestFitness Center, Karen Jolly, ask yourself, "If you don't take care of your body, where will you live?" 
            Let's assume that those of us in the business "walk the walk and talk the talk," although arguably, one too many overweight fitness professionals can be seen in a fitness center or two across the nation. Now, take the advice you give and, hopefully, live, and share it with all your non-health and fitness professional friends — the rest of America.

Health and Fitness Starts at Home

            The Colorado Mills Mall boasts one of the largest "food courts" in the west Denver suburban area. From barbecue ribs to Asian cuisine — satisfying the palette of any Mills Mall shopper is hardly a problem. The real problem lies in the number of significantly overweight families — entire families — lining the picnic-style benches with obese mothers, fathers and children slumped over super-sized portions of overcooked meats, french fries and soft drinks. Instead of shopping mall security guards, there should be child protection social workers patrolling the malls and issuing child abuse citations to parents who feed their children such "food" when they are clearly a present and future health risk. 
            WHAT TO DO, AMERICA: Lead by example. Slim down those portions at home, on the road and in the mall. Recognize that the current generation of child-bearing young adults will see an exponential increase in the number of parents who outlive their own children.
            Need some guidance? Sign up! Join organizations such as your local Governor's Council for Physical Fitness, the President's Council for Physical Fitness or your state's version of these organizations. According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), 65% of Americans are overweight and the number gets larger (pun intended) EACH YEAR. Therefore, it is vital to begin making lifestyle changes, starting with our children. Lobby your local school board to both improve school lunch programs and stop awarding school lunch contracts to the "lowest bidder." Our children do not need fast-food pizza, burgers and fries in the school cafeteria. VOTE YES for school bond issues that improve our school lunch programs.

Health and Fitness at the Workplace

            Good news: there is an increasing trend in health and fitness awareness in the workplace, as well as employers who are actively participating in health and fitness programs (for more info, see Wellness Councils of America ( Why? Employers realize that for every dollar spent on wellness programs, they realize four dollars in measurable returns: fewer missed work days due to illness, higher employee retention due to enhanced employee benefits, such as fitness center reimbursements, on-site daycare and wellness programs, and increased longevity due to active participation in smoker cessation programs, weight management programs and alcohol abuse/awareness programs.
            Bad news: there is still a relatively low level of corporate funding and corporate staffing for such wellness programs. This fact alone points to a great opportunity for health and fitness professionals to be the outsourced solution for a definitive need in every company. 
            WHAT TO DO, AMERICA: If you don't have a corporate wellness program, ask your employer's Human Resources department, "Why Not?" And if you have a corporate wellness program, participate, and encourage your co-workers to participate as well! Additionally, if your state does not have laws and legislation, similar to Colorado House Bill 1164 (passed in October of 2003, which states that insurance companies and employers can charge their employees LESS for their health care premiums if they demonstrate healthy lifestyles), then contact your local legislator and lobby for similar legislation in your state, city and county. 
Health and Fitness for (Your Name Here!)
            Do you have a particular interest that could benefit from your leadership ability, ent-husiasm, education or professional training? Do something! The baby boomer population makes up over 30% of the total US population, with a 400% increase in the number of individuals reaching the age of 65 over the next 20 years — the same group of individuals who have experienced three of the worst stock market crashes in history. With retirement funds depleted, the social security system unable to support such an influx of retirees and medical costs rising in spite of downward price pressure from managed health care, greater numbers of Americans will need to keep working past the age of 65.
            WHAT TO DO, AMERICA: Stay informed. Join organizations, such as the Interactive Council on Active Aging (, and find out how aging baby boomers and fitness professionals are keeping America healthy and fit. Become certified as a Silver Sneakers qualified fitness professional, or talk to your local rheumatologist about the number one prescription for arthritis exercise and how you can help someone suffering from this debilitating disease that is common among the 65-plus population.
            Remember the cliché, "If it isn't uncomfortable, it isn't 'change.'" So embrace it. Embrace new habits; strike these words from your vocabulary, "I don't have time." In fact, go for a walk; stay informed; set the example; and DO. PARTICIPATE America. 
            Philippe Ray is the President/Founder of "Personal Best" Fitness Center in Lakewood, Colorado and The National Personal Training Institute (NPTI) of Colorado, LLC. with locations in Lakewood and Colorado Springs.  NPTI Colorado is a certified vocational school by the Colorado Department of Higher Education.  For more information, visit or call 877.215.2643. 


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