The first national, comprehensive plan to support and encourage physical activity among all Americans was released on May 3, 2010, at an event in Washington, D.C. The National Physical Activity Plan, a wide range of public policy recommendations across eight broad sectors, is the product of a 10-month collaboration of experts in diverse fields. In November 2009, the Human Kinetics’ owned journal, the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, released a supplement collecting several white papers by leading scholars on issues addressed in the Plan. (Click here to read the open-access supplement.)
“This is a national initiative that goes well beyond just telling people to exercise. We are recommending policies, programs, and initiatives that will change our communities in ways that enable all Americans to be physically active,” said Russell Pate, Ph.D., chair of the National Physical Activity Plan. “It’s well established that physical activity brings manifold health benefits, but we need to change people’s behavior. The Plan provides a roadmap for change, addressing everything from the education of health professionals to zoning laws, school policies, and workplace wellness programs.”
The Plan is, in part, an answer to America’s alarming rates of adult and childhood obesity and decreasing levels of physical activity. Research has shown that physical activity and exercise can help prevent and treat obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, depression, bone disease, cancer, and other diseases. If implemented, measures called for in the Plan could significantly improve public health, cut health care costs, and reduce health disparities.
The product of a public/private partnership, the Plan calls for policy, environmental, and cultural changes to help all Americans enjoy the health benefits of physical activity. The vision is that all Americans are physically active and live, work, and play in environments that facilitate regular physical activity. The Plan is an ongoing collaboration of scores of nonprofit organizations, corporations, and public agencies serving as partners, affiliates, and sponsors.
Following the announcement of the Plan at the National Press Club, leaders addressed Members of Congress and their staffs. Speakers included Pate, Robin M. Ikeda (M.D., MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Acting Director, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control), Barry Ford (President, National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity), Shellie Pfohl (Executive Director, President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports), Nancy Brown (CEO, American Heart Association), Robert E. Sallis, (M.D., FACSM, Past President, American College of Sports Medicine), and Katie Adamson (Director of Partnerships & Health Policy, YMCA of the USA).
Governors and mayors throughout the United States have proclaimed May 3rd “National Physical Activity Day.” “This level of support from elected leaders is very encouraging,” said Pate. “Successfully implementing the Plan will depend, in large part, on the willingness of leaders at every level to enact the kinds of changes that will encourage and allow people to become more physically active. Currently, there are too many barriers to active lifestyles and too many Americans are left behind.”
A Call to Action
The Plan presents a call to action with specific strategies for each sector, for example:
- Education: Develop and implement policies requiring school accountability for quality and quantity of physical education and physical activity
- Health Care: Make physical activity a patient “vital sign” that all health care providers assess and discuss with patients
- Transportation/Planning: Local, state, and federal agencies will use routine performance measures and set benchmarks for active travel (walking, biking, public transit)
- Recreation: Enhance the existing parks and recreation infrastructure with effective policy and environmental changes to promote physical activity.
- Business/Industry: Identify and disseminate best practice models for physical activity in the work place.
The Plan Process
Pate led a process that identified strategies and tactics for eight key areas of society that have a direct impact on the physical activity levels and health of people in the United States. Eight working groups collaborated under the guidance of a 23-member Coordinating Committee. The eight sectors are
- Business & Industry
- Mass Media
- Parks, Recreation, Fitness & Sports
- Public Health
- Transportation, Urban Design & Community Planning
- Volunteer & Non-Profit Organizations.
Following the May 3rd launch, the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) will lead implementation, working with the organizations designated to coordinate teams focused on each of the eight sectors. “We envision communities that are walkable, schools that understand and embrace the link between physical activity and academic achievement, and workplaces that celebrate opportunities to be physically active as a way to enhance the bottom line,” said NCPPA President Barry Ford. “Physical activity of all types is critical to building healthier and more livable communities, and it is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.”
“A comprehensive physical activity plan cannot be a one-stop shop approach,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of American Heart Association. “This important initiative will require a coordinated commitment from all sectors of our community—business, education, health care, transportation, and others—to develop and implement strategies that will encourage all Americans to make physical activity a part of our daily lives.”
Numerous partner organizations will help to implement the plan at the national, regional, and grassroots levels. Collectively, they will promote public policy, track results, and launch a cause-related marketing campaign to engage all audiences.
Information about the U.S. Plan is available online at www.physicalactivityplan.org.
The Journal of Physical Activity and Health’s supplement on the National Physical Activity Plan is available online at [insert URL].