Boy Scouts prepared to battle obesity

For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts have attracted new recruits with the lure of camping, boating and other outdoor activities. But because they spend so much time indoors watching TV and playing video games, these new members are increasingly out of shape and overweight.

To honor the part of the Boy Scout oath that promises “To keep myself physically strong,” the Boy Scouts of America on Thursday introduced a healthy-living initiative called “ScoutStrong.”

A collaboration with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, the program will create a Scout-specific Presidential Active Lifestyle Award designed to teach the importance of making healthy choices. BSA officials say they hope 500,000 Scouts and their family members will achieve the award by 2013.

The new program was announced at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort during the BSA’s annual Top Hands meeting of Scouting leaders.

“As the Boy Scouts of America, we should be advocates for youth when it comes to healthy living and fighting the battle against obesity,” Bob Mazzuca, chief scout executive, said following the program’s launch. “This is a natural partnership between two iconic brands,”

There are 2.7 million Scouts between the ages of 7 and 21 in the U.S.

To earn the award, children under 18 must be physically active 60 minutes a day (30 minutes for adults), for at least five days a week for six out of eight weeks. More than 100 activities count toward the daily requirement, including running, gardening and canoeing. Those who complete the challenge will be able to download a certificate of achievement and may purchase award patches.

Getting a jump on the program announcement, national commissioner Tico Perez, an attorney from Orlando, Fla., has dropped 85 pounds since January by eating better and exercising regularly.

“I’m doing it for the normal health reasons, but also because I know I serve as a role model for these boys,” he said.

He and 15 other adult Scout leaders also have already earned their Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.

BSA’s commitment to healthy living extends to the 2013 Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, which adult leaders will not be allowed to attend if their body mass index is above 40. The Scouts will consult with the doctors of those whose BMI is between 32 and 40 to make sure they can handle the rigorous physical activity required during the event.

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