Five hundred tribes of Native Americans and Alaska Natives will participate in a day of health and fitness on Oct. 13 as part of the Native Congress of American Indians (NCAI) annual convention and tradeshow in Ft. Lauderdale, FL this week.

The NCAI along with the Indian Health Service (IHS) and Nike Inc. are sponsoring the second annual fitness day. The groups hope the day will focus more attention on health concerns in the Native American population. Included in activities for the day will by a rally and walk.

"We hope the National Native American Health and Fitness Day can help to motivate many of our community members on their personal path toward wellness,” said NCAI President Tex Hall. “Tribal communities continue to experience growing health disparities as our families are affected by increasing rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. So much of our cultural, social, and economic well being is dependent on our individual and collective physical and behavioral health."

The NCAI delegates that walk at the convention in Ft. Lauderdale will receive a customized pedometer, a gym bag full of health and nutrition information, and a resource guide directing them to services available nationally. The NCAI is encouraging local Native American communities to hold walks and other events on that day.

The conventioneers will hear a keynote speech by professional golfer Notah Begay III, who is a four-time PGA Tour winner and the only full-blooded Native American on the PGA Tour. Begay speaks about diabetes prevention.

The Native American population is being targeted by a program called Just Move It, which is a collaborative effort led by Nike, the National Indian health Board and IHS. The program’s goal is to get one million Native Americans active by 2006.