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Posts tagged: IHRSA

Does the 80/20 Rule Apply To Physical Activity Levels?

Posted by IHRSA

The 80/20 rule has become a shorthand way of describing a system where 80% of the output is created by 20% of the inputs/participants. It’s a phenomenon witnessed by economists and social scientists across several sectors of society. In business, for example, 80% of a company’s negative feedback may come from just 20% of its customers; 80% of sales may come from 20% of the sales staff; and on volunteer boards of directors, 80% of the work may come from 20% of the volunteers.

Three recent data points suggest that the 80/20 rule may also apply to the overall physical activity output of Americans.

  1. In May 2013, the CDC announced that only 1 in 5 Americans self-reported enough physical activity to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
  2. Last month, the 2013 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report announced that health club membership levels in America remained just under 20% for the 3rd year in a row.
  3. And this month, the CDC announced that fewer than 1 in 4 adolescents are meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

One way of looking at these data points is to conclude that 20% of the American population is destined to pursue physically active lives, and the other 80% is destined to long for a comfortable couch - that’s just the way nature intended it. It is a reasonable conclusion given that many people equate exercise with discomfort, and we are generally wired to avoid discomfort. When given the choice between push ups or lounging in front of a flat screen, it’s actually somewhat surprising that that as many as 20% of Americans are likely to choose the push-ups.

But, of course, nobody is actually destined for a life of physical activity or inactivity. Inclined, perhaps. But every one has a choice, and our role as public health advocates is to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

And we must go beyond creating healthy, easy choices. We need to connect on a very personal level with sedentary Americans. We need to understand that motivating millions of sedentary individuals will require millions of different motivations. If it were as easy as simply increasing public awareness of the benefits of exercise, we would have won already. Americans know they should exercise.

So what will it take to move beyond 20%?

I hold fast to the belief that we can one day flip the ratio on its head and reach 80%, but the path to 80% isn’t clear.

What future developments will breakthrough and reach the 80%?

Supportive work environments? Facility-based fitness tracking? Exercise prescriptions? Wearable technology? Walkable communities? Green spaces? Small-group fitness?

What do you think? Can we break the 80/20 rule?

Think and Grow Healthy: What Napoleon Hill Can Teach Us About Healthy Behaviors


We’ve written previously about the importance of making the healthy choice, not only the easy choice, but also the happy choice. This approach emphasizes the role that supportive environments can play in inducing healthy behaviors. We’ve also addressed the impact of social circles and support networks.

Each one of those posts discussed external factors that may influence a person’s decision to pursue a healthier and more active lifestyle.


But true behavior change requires something internal; a motivation strong enough to persevere.

In the depths of the Great Depression, Napoleon Hill published the business classic, “Think and Grow Rich,”which still consistently ranks as one of the greatest self-help/business books.

It It is a book, largely, about self-empowerment. It asserts that circumstance can be overcome by focus and determination. Despite having been published more than 75 years ago, there is a joyful, almost celebratory message that seems perfectly in place alongside more modern texts about the self-empowering forces of the web-based economy.

The book offers 13 principles of success based on his observations of 40 wealthy individuals, Sure, external forces matter, a lot, but humans are capable of achieving great heights, regardless of environment. The “starting point of all achievement,” according to Hill, is desire.

Hill offers 6 practical steps for turning desire into riches. I think they provide an excellent blueprint for any type of endeavor. Here are those 6 practical steps. Lightly edited, with the word “money” replaced with the words “physical activity.”

  1. Fix in your mind the exact amount of physical activity you desire.
  2. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for physical activity you desire (there is no such reality as “something for nothing.”)
  3. Establish a definite date when you intend to achieve the physical activity level you desire.
  4. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once - whether you are ready or not - to put this plan into action.
  5. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of physical activity you intend to pursue, name the time limit for achieving the amount, state what you intend to give in return for the amount of physical activity, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
  6. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning.

What do you think? Would these six steps help folks lead a healthier, more active life? What else would you suggest?

In coming months: What role can social networks play in developing an individual’s desire for a healthier, more active life?

And, lastly, I would be remiss if I did not note that the wise and successful Napoleon Hill also listed “lack of proper physical exercise” in his section about the major causes of failure…

A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name


In a recent post, we discussed the importance of making the healthy choice, not just the “easy choice,” but also the happy choice. This week, we’ll touch on the power of making the healthy place, the easy and happy place.

It’s fair to say that a neighborhood fitness center serves a very different purpose than a neighborhood tavern.  The former provides services to improve one’s physical health, while the latter provides services that are generally, shall we say, counter to good physical health. But despite their divergent societal purposes, I think that successful fitness centers share many characteristics with successful taverns.

They make people feel welcome. They are inclusive. And they provide a sense of belonging.

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
—Theme Song, Cheers

“We want to be the Cheers of fitness,” says Dave Tuthill, President & CEO of Hearthstone Health & Fitness in Easton, MD, which just celebrated a wildly successful first year of operation.

But, there are no adult beverages served at Hearthstone. In fact, they only offer carefully vetted healthy food and drinks. Yet, the essence of what made a place like Cheers – the idealized neighborhood tavern featured in the 80s sitcom of the same name – so desirable is very much evident at Hearthstone.

It starts the moment a patron walks through the door. Front desk personnel warmly greet each visitor, nearly always by first name, and often with a handshake. And eye contact, that ancient old art lost in a tidal wave of handheld devices and texting, is a given.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot
—Theme Song, Cheers

Amidst the daily, modern strains of stress and endless connectivity, sedentary behavior is often the norm, which only exacerbates the impact of stress. Hearthstone was conceived as an oasis from the bustle; not like a spa, but more like an impeccably clean living room (complete with large stone hearth fireplace, naturally) filled with new fitness equipment. The design and décor suggest stylish comfort and the staff work hard to create a “home away from home” environment. 

photo of hearthstone

You wanna be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
—Theme Song, Cheers

To be sure, the members of Hearthstone run the gamut from uber-fit to struggling with obesity, so the troubles are not quite all the same in a purely physiological sense. But there is a shared belief that pursuing a healthy, physically active life can be challenging, and that the welcoming and supportive environment of Hearthstone helps overcome that challenge. Judgments are not allowed at Hearthstone, only support.

Operating a facility like Hearthstone is undoubtedly complex and nuanced, but I think I can summarize the approach quite simply:

  1. Make sure that members know how much they are valued and supported
  2. Do lots of listening to better understand the goals/needs/concerns of members; and
  3. Keep the place really clean.

That’s it in a nutshell. Sounds like a pretty great tavern, eh?

What are some other lessons that a fitness center might learn from a tavern?