Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and his foundation have launched a new web site, Livestrong.com, that contains health tips, physical fitness advice, and cancer prevention information. As educators look for new ways to battle rising obesity rates among children, some say the interactive site could become a valuable addition in K-12 classrooms.
Fran Cleland, president of the National Association for Sport & Physical Education (NASPE) and a kinesiology professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, said web sites such as Livestrong.com could become supplements for everyday health and science lessons—but teachers and parents should not expect children to seek out health-related information on their own, she added.
"Sometimes internet information needs someone to take it to the next step," Cleland said. "Adults can do that with much more facility and ease than young adults and children."
Cleland said computer-based lessons on how to trim fat and calories from meals and which exercises would be most effective for K-12 students have become popular in school districts nationwide, but a hands-on approach will reinforce such health advice. Cleland said NASPE recently applied for a grant that would allow the organization to host lessons for day-care workers on how they can incorporate physical activity into their daily classroom routines.
"Interaction between people is the best bet," she said. "I think hands-on instruction is really preferable."
Livestrong.com, a for-profit venture, is designed to motivate individuals wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle, help them get answers to medical questions, and put them in touch with people who have similar fitness goals or experiences.
"I hope [people] get inspired from it, in the sense they get off their tail and break a sweat and exercise," Armstrong, who retired from cycling in 2005, said in a June 16 interview with the Associated Press.
A survivor of testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain, Armstrong has developed a powerful marketing and fundraising brand with Livestrong, a slogan born from his nonprofit foundation for cancer research and survivorship. The foundation already has sold more than 60 million yellow Livestrong bracelets.
Livestrong.com goes well beyond the mission of the foundation by offering consumers information on topics ranging from diet and exercise to marathon training, diabetes, and other medical-related issues.
"If a 40-year-old woman is diagnosed with breast cancer or an ingrown toenail, it’s all there," Armstrong said.
The web site launched June 16 with a library of 600,000 pages of content, including 15,000 articles and videos, 350,000 nutritional food profiles, and 50,000 health and fitness-related questions and answers.
Armstrong said the site is geared toward not only attracting the hard-core fitness buff, who likely already has trusted web-based resources, but also the average person trying to lead a healthier lifestyle who might currently be doing little to get started.
One of the key features of Livestrong.com is a section titled "My Dares," which allows users to set up a list of goals, such as running a mile in six minutes, jumping rope for 10 minutes, or running a marathon. The site then lines up information and other users with similar goals.
Other features include a diet section that will help count calories of a breakfast burrito or a trip to McDonald’s.
The web site was developed with Santa Monica, Calif.-based Demand Media, which is run by former MySpace.com chairman Richard Rosenblatt. Armstrong and Rosenblatt came up with the idea when they both served on the board for sports drink company FRS Co.
The creators of Livestrong.com commissioned a survey of about 2,500 American adults and found that 86 percent had at least tried to improve their overall health—but less than half considered themselves successful. Fifty-two percent cited lack of motivation as a key reason, according to the Livestrong.com survey.
Livestrong.com has drafted a power-packed advisory board to help give it some clout beyond the already formidable Armstrong name. Board members include Armstrong; Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent at CNN; Dr. Timothy Harlan, also known as Dr. Gourmet; Dr. Michael Clark, president of the National Academy of Sports Medicine; and Andy Miller, director of survivorship programs for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
"We’re here to teach, not preach," said Joe Perez, a Demand Media executive vice president. "We want this to be a daily resource."