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Annapolis on the Move

Let’s Move! helps make a healthy city

Jennifer Jennings and Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell-Charles at a recent White House visit honoring Annapolis as a Lets Move! gold medalist.

Annapolis is making such strides in advancing fitness that First Lady Michelle Obama ranks our capital city as a top community in her signature Let’s Move! initiative. The honor means healthier citizens — plus White House visits for city movers and shakers.
    “On September 16, I made my second trip to the White House in five months,” Jennifer Jennings told me. “I have the best job in the world,” she said. As Community Health, Fitness and Aquatics Supervisor for Annapolis Recreation and Parks, she says her job is making “Annapolis a healthy city.”
    Jennings’ first visit, in spring for the planting of the White House garden, recognized Annapolis among 500-plus cities, towns and counties committed to the five goals of Let’s Move! — healthy school meals, opportunities for physical activity during and outside of school, healthy early care and education programs.
    Now Lets Move! is helping Jennings make Annapolis the fitness capital of Anne Arundel County — maybe Maryland.
    In five years of Let’s Move! Annapolis has pioneered 10 different initiatives promoting children’s health and physical well-being. One, the Mighty Milers program, enlists 300 third- to fifth-graders, teaching nutrition and proper running form and building endurance. U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen volunteer as coaches.
    Another, Teen Mindful Health and Family Wellness, is a six-week physical activity and nutrition program for kids ages 10 to 16 and their caregivers. One-on-one personal training, yoga, nutrition lectures, daily food logs and grocery store tours help exercise and sound nutrition become ways of life.
    September’s White House visit honored Annapolis as a Lets Move! gold medalist.
    “Out of 550 cities, towns and counties, about 54 were asked,” Jennings says. “Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell-Charles and I were with mayors, elected officials and representatives from all across the country.”
    Beyond that perk, lives are changing.
    “This boy, verging on obese, started last year’s Mighty Milers program in October with a lagging 14-minute mile,” Jennings says.
    “We met two times a week, with the Naval Academy marathon team running with them and encouraging them. At the final track meet six weeks later, he ran an 8:30 mile. Three or four months later, he was ready to go out for baseball. He’s now on the soccer team and swimming. That’s what this does.”
    Change goes beyond one kid.
    “It’s our future,” Jennings says. “If we are known as a healthy city, our economy is going to thrive, people and businesses will move here, they’ll want the parks, want to be healthy, outdoors and exercising, and we’ll all have better attitudes.”