Special Olympics is known worldwide as a sports organization for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID), but many people may not be aware that it is also the largest public health program in the world serving people with ID. As a partner of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation and the Together Counts™ program, we know the importance of community.
Through the work of volunteer healthcare professionals and students, athletes receive exams, education, medication and even prescription eyewear and hearing aids. This life changing care is all free and part of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Promotion program.
The Healthy Athletes Health Promotion program uses interactive, educational tools and displays, motivational literature and demonstrations to empower the athletes, coaches and families to make healthy lifestyle choices to maintain an enhanced level of wellness, self-care and to improve their long-term health. Key topics include healthy eating choices, fun ways to increase physical activity, sun safety, tobacco avoidance, handwashing, and other lifestyle topics. Health exams include height and weight, blood pressure, bone density measurements and a healthy habits interview.
Special Olympics athletes are like all of the other Together Counts blog readers when it comes to maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. Practicing energy balance, and choosing to continue or adopt a healthy habit are key! Talk to your family about Special Olympics and even consider being a volunteer. One way to get the conversation started is to share the affirmations below…the very messages used to motivate Special Olympians to eat balanced every day!
- I choose to eat more fruits and vegetables
- Try eating a fruit with lunch or make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Want crunchy foods? Try apples, carrots, celery or snap peas
- I choose to have strong bones
- Eat bone building foods such as low-fat dairy, dark green leafy lettuce, broccoli and almonds
- Include weight bearing physical activities
- I choose to drink water every day
- Drink plenty of water every day
- Drink a bottle of water before and after physical activity
- Eat fresh juicy fruits when you’re hot such as berries, watermelon, apples and oranges
Alice Lenihan is the Senior Global Clinical Advisor working with the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Health Promotion Programs. She is a Registered Dietitian has over 30 years’ experience in public health nutrition. Information on these and other Health Promotion topics can be found at: http://resources.specialolympics.org/Topics/Healthy_Athletes/Healthy_Athletes_Choose_to_Change.aspx