PURCHASE, N.Y., March 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- PepsiCo (PEP) announced today the launch of the Smart Spot Dance! initiative, a multi-city instructional dance program that offers a fun way for families, especially Moms, to lead healthy, more active lifestyles. Mario Lopez, of Dancing with the Stars and LaChanze, of the Broadway hit, The Color Purple, are joining PepsiCo to reach out to the African American and Latino communities to promote dance as a way to increase physical activity.
The national kickoff event is scheduled at 7 pm tonight at the McBurney YMCA located at 125 West 14th St. in New York City. Lopez and LaChanze will join the community in a dance program led by Broadway choreographer Maria Torres. National leaders of key community organizations will participate including Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League (NUL), Jack Lund, CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York, and Jim Hill, Co-Founder of America On the Move (AOM).
"From an early age, my mother instilled in me a belief in the health and lifestyle benefits associated with dance," said Mario Lopez. "I look forward to traveling around the country and speaking to local communities about healthier living through dance."
"As a mother and Broadway dancer, I certainly understand the importance of nutrition and exercise," said LaChanze. "Dance is a great way to be active -- and I look forward to taking part in this important program."
A multicultural study released today by AOM, a national non-profit organization that provides individuals, families, organizations and communities with free, practical and trusted weight management solutions, reported that people who dance can benefit more than people who walk by almost doubling the amount of physical activity they can achieve in the same amount of time. The study was funded by PepsiCo.
"This study is exciting because it shows us that dancing is just as good as -- if not better than -- walking as a way to stay in shape," Hill said. "AOM wants lifestyle changes to be simple and fun, and dancing is something many people already do on a regular basis. We encourage people across the country to work dancing into living healthier."
One of AOM's key goals is to give individuals a variety of ways to increase their daily steps. As the pioneer of the "small changes" approach, AOM has demonstrated that weight gain can be stopped by balancing calories consumed with calories burned through physical activity -- this is known as "energy balance." AOM's research proves that a simple way to achieve energy balance and stop weight gain is by taking an additional 2,000 steps and eating 100 fewer calories a day.
Through dance, people who participated in the study nearly doubled the number of steps taken per minute -- easily achieving and oftentimes exceeding the additional 2,000 steps. A typical walker accumulates about 100 steps per minute. During dancing, people can accumulate up to 200 steps per minute depending on the type of dance. Study participants reported that dance is an entertaining way to increase steps without thinking of the activity as exercise.
"Based on the study's findings, PepsiCo is launching the Smart Spot Dance! initiative that intends to empower and motivate the African American and Latino communities to adopt healthier, more active lifestyles," said Antonio Lucio, PepsiCo senior vice president and chief innovation and health & wellness officer. "We'll engage the community through dance, which is a fun, culturally relevant way for families to get active and we'll educate our consumers about our Smart Spot products that can contribute to healthier lifestyles.
"We're proud to work alongside four highly respected community organizations that are as committed to health and wellness as we are," he said. "Through this partnership, we're confident that this initiative is another step toward making a difference in these communities."
PepsiCo is teaming up with NCLR, NUL, YMCA of the USA, and AOM to enlist their membership to participate in the program.
"Smart Spot Dance! is an exciting, innovative way of getting people to do something we all clearly need to do more of -- exercise and watch our weight. We applaud PepsiCo's commitment to healthier living and look forward to working with our partners at the National Urban League, YMCA, and America On the Move to get the word out about this important and needed initiative," stated Murguia.
"An active lifestyle combined with healthy eating not only improves your waistline but your bottom line through fewer sick days, greater productivity at work and lower health-care costs," said Morial. "What better way to have fun and improve the quality of your life than through the Smart Spot Dance! initiative."
"Due to chronic disease and obesity, America's health is under siege, particularly in urban communities," said Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA. "As the nation's oldest and largest community service organization with a mission dedicated to health and wellness, the YMCA is uniquely qualified and positioned to address our country's health crisis, but we know that no single organization can solve this problem on its own. By participating in creative initiatives like Smart Spot Dance! with other respected and committed organizations, the YMCA can multiply the impact and effectiveness of our work."
The Smart Spot Dance! initiative will travel to Chicago (March 30 with Mario Lopez/Claudia Gonzalez and April 24 with LaChanze/Jeannette Jordan), Houston (May 10 with LaChanze and Jeannette Jordan), Los Angeles (May 31 with Mario Lopez/Claudia Gonzalez), Miami (July 20-21 at the NCLR national conference with Mario Lopez/Claudia Gonzalez), St. Louis (July 27-28 at the NUL national conference with LaChanze/Jeannette Jordan) and Washington, DC (September 26 with LaChanze/Jeannette Jordan, and October 1 with Mario Lopez/Claudia Gonzalez).
At each local event, Mario Lopez or LaChanze will join Broadway choreographer Maria Torres in a high-energy, easy-to-follow dance routine that teaches the community the latest moves through a fusion of Latin jazz and urban rhythms. Registered dieticians Claudia Gonzalez or Jeannette Jordan will be on-hand to provide counsel on how to live healthier, more active lifestyles and recipes will be distributed. Each participant will receive a DVD of the dance routine, a pedometer to measure daily steps and other collateral materials.
Each event will be videotaped and participants can visit www.smartspot.com, click on the Smart Spot Dance! logo to see themselves, family and friends dancing. This is a bilingual site that highlights each event, features an event-by-event diary from Mario Lopez and LaChanze, the dance instruction routine by Maria Torres, a dance track to learn the steps, and Latin and R&B music to download so people can create their own dance video and upload the videos to the site. People can vote for their favorite dance and each month the Top 10 dance videos will be featured. Later this year, PepsiCo will release a "dance-u-mentary," the first-ever documentary featuring consumer-generated dance videos from these communities, with the debut slated to run on univision.com and BET.com.
PepsiCo is committed to playing a responsible and constructive role in health and wellness. The company recognizes its responsibility to encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles -- beginning with its products. In 2004, PepsiCo launched the Smart Spot symbol -- the green symbol of Smart Choices Made Easy. This symbol is a simple labeling system that makes it easier for consumers to identify PepsiCo products that contribute to a healthier lifestyle and explains why each product is a better choice.
Products that feature the Smart Spot symbol meet established nutrition criteria based on authoritative statements from the Food and Drug Administration and the National Academy of Sciences or provide other functional benefits. The Smart Spot symbol appears on more than 250 PepsiCo products including Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice, Aquafina water, Gatorade Thirst Quencher, Baked! Lay's, Quaker Oatmeal and Diet Pepsi, among many others.
PepsiCo's journey to offer healthier choices started literally decades ago when the company was the first to offer a diet soft drink. That innovation in beverages was followed by moving beyond soft drinks into non-carbonated drinks -- where today, the company is the leader in bottled water, juices, and ready-to-drink tea.
In the late '90s, PepsiCo moved to transform the company further with the acquisition of Tropicana, which includes a wide range of added benefits like Calcium and Fiber.
In 2001, PepsiCo merged with Quaker Oats, which brought a portfolio of healthy cereals and grains, along with Gatorade.
Since that time, PepsiCo has been transforming its "core" portfolio of beverages and snacks to play a role in improved diets -- using new technologies, accelerating innovation and exploring new territories to find ways to give consumers a greater variety of healthier choices.
That includes taking steps to improve the healthfulness of the company's existing products. For example:
* Frito-Lay was the first food company to completely and voluntarily eliminate trans fats from its products; * Following that move, Frito-Lay recently reduced saturated fats in Lay's and Ruffles potato chips by more than 50% by switching to sunflower oil -- a heart healthy oil; * Quaker Breakfast Bars are 25 percent lower in sugar than the leading cereal bars; * Tropicana Light 'n Healthy has one-half the sugar and the calories of regular orange juice; and, * Propel Fitness Water has added calcium.
The company is committed to going much further. In fact, 50 percent of PepsiCo's new food and beverage products are expected to be comprised of wholesome and nutritious ingredients or offer improved health benefits.
PepsiCo continues to experience impressive growth results across all its North American businesses with its Smart Spot products. In 2006, more than 40% of the company's North American revenues came from products that are Smart Spot eligible, reflecting consumers' demand for healthier products. PepsiCo emphasizes the importance of energy balance -- balancing calories consumed and calories burned.
As a result, the company is committed to providing products that contribute to a healthier lifestyle as well as supporting programs that promote more active lifestyles.
PepsiCo is one of the world's largest food and beverage companies with annual revenues of more than $35 billion. Its principal businesses include Frito-Lay snacks, Pepsi-Cola beverages, Gatorade sports drinks, Tropicana juices and Quaker foods. Its portfolio includes 17 brands that generate $1 billion or more each in annual retail sales.
America On the Move
America On the Move (AOM) is a national non-profit helping individuals, families and communities across our nation make positive changes to improve the health and quality of life. Through its programs and outreach, AOM initiates and maintains individual, social, and environmental behavior changes that support healthy eating and active living habits in our society. AOM's science-based programs provide the support and tools that help individuals of all ages manage weight effectively through energy balance. For more information about AOM's free programs, visit: www.americaonthemove.org.
National Council of La Raza
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) -- the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States -- works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Through its network of nearly 300 affiliated community-based organizations (CBOs), NCLR reaches millions of Hispanics each year in 41 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. To achieve its mission, NCLR conducts applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy, providing a Latino perspective in five key areas -- assets/investments, civil rights/immigration, education, employment and economic status, and health. In addition, it provides capacity-building assistance to its Affiliates who work at the state and local level to advance opportunities for individuals and families.
National Urban League
Established in 1910, The Urban League is the nation's oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. Today, the National Urban League (www.nul.org), headquartered in New York City, spearheads the non-partisan efforts of its local affiliates. There are over 100 local affiliates of the National Urban League located in 36 states and the District of Columbia providing direct services like job training, home ownership and educational assistance to millions of people nationwide along with extensive advocacy and research.
YMCA of the USA
YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the nation's 2,617 YMCAs, which serve more than 20.2 million people each year, including 9.5 million children, uniting men, women and children of all ages, faiths, backgrounds, abilities and income levels. From urban areas to small towns, YMCAs are collectively the nation's largest nonprofit provider of child care and after school programs in nearly 10,000 diverse communities and neighborhoods across the U.S. A place for people to belong, YMCAs have proudly served America's communities for more than 150 years by building healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Visit www.ymca.net to find your local YMCA.