We are very familiar with the four H's: (head, heart, hands, and health) in the 4-H pledge. But now the "health for better living" holds even more meaning.
According to recent findings from Tufts University, 4-H youth are engaging in positive healthy living behaviors more often than youth that do not participate in 4-H. According to the study, 4-H'ers, regardless of their background, socio-economic status, race, and gender, thrive due to the education and experiences received through 4-H programming. The study has found that, when compared to other youth, young people involved in 4-H are:
• More likely to spend more time exercising or being physically active
• Two times less likely to engage in drug use
• Two times less likely to use cigarettes or drink alcohol
"With nearly 2.7 million youth enrolled in 4-H healthy living programs in 2009, the findings from the Tufts study underline 4-H's unique ability to make a significant impact on the health and wellness of many of our nation's future leaders," said Donald T. Floyd, Jr., president and CEO of National 4-H Council. "Working in conjunction with the White House Let's Move! campaign and the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge, 4-H's extensive healthy living programs equip youth with the knowledge and skills that will prepare them physically, emotionally and socially to meet the challenges of the 21st century."
Those of us who spent numerous years in 4-H can testify to the physical activity we exerted working with our projects. Whether it was halter-breaking a heifer, moving hay, or feeding our animals, we were constantly working our body. As a competitive athlete for eight years, I never required a weight room until I competed in college – spending most of my time away from the dairy. The constant physical activity and less time for negative activities, certainly contributed to increased class attendance due to fewer sick days.
This study only quantifies the results we already could see in the top-quality youth 4-H helps develop. Meanwhile, two other government programs have realized they could partner with 4-H to hope for similar success. You can learn more about them at the links below.
The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award recognizes those who log their recommended physical activity for six consecutive weeks, five days a week (60 minutes for kids, 30 minutes for adults). Visit http://www.presidentschallenge.org/natl4-H for more information.
Lead by First Lady Michelle Obama, Let's Move! is working together with 4-H and other community organizations to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States. Visit www.letsmove.gov for more information.