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Posts tagged: exercise

Keep an Active Piece of Summer in Your Heart

Guest post from Dorothea Vafiadis, MS, FAHA, Director of Healthy Living at the American Heart Association

Why do we sometimes get the blues at the end of summer? Is it because of the long, hot days beating down and drying out the landscape? Watching the days shorten and the mornings and evenings darken? Or is it the anticipation of giving up the casual summer clothes and vacation activities, and thinking ahead to tighter routines?

It’s natural to think of summer as a freer, more active time. But, as fall approaches and back to school mode creeps in, we don’t have to give up on the fun or abandon our physical activity routines. We can do ourselves a favor, and plan now to take the aspects of summer that we like and integrate them year round into a regular pattern for a healthy lifestyle and a healthier heart.

It’s important to exercise regularly, because the effects of exercise ebb away once physical activity stops. Most studies suggest many of the key benefits are lost in four to six weeks of inactivity.  So, keep that physical activity going and don’t let the blues cut your summer short or take a toll on your heart health.

What activities have been fun for you this summer? Motivation is a key consideration in keeping up an exercise routine. Having a workout partner also helps many people adhere to their physical activity plans. If you enjoyed that summer walk, picnic softball game or swim with the kids, think about ways to continue similar activities into the fall. Research has shown that people will be motivated more to participate in physical activity if it’s something they enjoy, feels like a positive experience and helps them feel relaxed or reduce tensions.

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National Physical Activity Plan: Looking Ahead

Post by NPAP

Since its launch nearly four years ago, the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) has acted as a roadmap to policy makers and advocates to create a more physically active nation. The NPAP is a document comprised of 240+ evidence-based recommendations for change in the policies and systems that guide the environments in which we live, work, learn, play, and commute.

There was early recognition that the success of the NPAP would hinge upon both successful implementation and evaluation of the evidenced-based recommendations highlighted throughout the plan. Additionally, in order to reflect the current state of the science, it was recognized that the NPAP should undergo periodic revisions and updates.

The field of physical activity and public health continues to evolve. In recent years, numerous policies and legislation supporting physical activity have been proposed and/or implemented at the national, state, and local levels. In conjunction with on-going research in areas including physical activity behavior, measurement, and policy, the time to review the NPAP’s content and structure is rapidly approaching.

Ultimately, the NPAP will reach success when the vast majority of Americans regularly meet or surpass the Physical Activity Guidelines. So how do we get there? What strategies and tactics do you think need to be added to the current version of the plan? What strategies should be identified as high priority during the revision? And most importantly, how can we incorporate these changes and make the plan more user-friendly and successful?

If you have ideas for ways in which the content of the National Physical Activity Plan could be improved, please send those ideas to us.

5 Reasons to Believe We Will Be More Active in the Future

Post by IHRSA

Last month, we noted in this space that only 1 in 5 Americans self-reported enough physical activity to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines. And given the optimistic leanings of most self-reporting, we might assume the number is much lower. Even our kids, who seem born wired to run and play, are predominantly sedentary.

So, is this it for Americans? Have we permanently engineered physical activity out of our culture? Will we simply continue our long journey toward inertia?

I don’t believe so.

I believe the ship is starting to turn around.

In March 2014, the fitness industry will convene for its largest annual American gathering at IHRSA’s 33rd Annual International Convention & Trade Show in San Diego, CA.  It is an industry town hall of sorts, where innovation and ideas mix for three frenetic days and then spread to all corners of the globe. What happens at IHRSA, most certainly does not stay at IHRSA.


The convention agenda naturally reflects the fitness trends and promising new approaches to increasing physical activity. 

In many ways, it’s like looking into a crystal ball for what’s next.

I’m always particularly interested in the convention sessions that focus on how to use health club facilities to reach the 80% of the population who aren’t exercising regularly.

Here are 5 sessions generating buzz that make me believe we will be more active in the future:

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Getting the Balance Right

Post by Colin Milner, Founder and CEO of the International Council on Active Aging®

Does your center or community have a yoga studio or personal-training area? If so, odds are that you offer these programs because of growing demand or as a new way to meet your clients’ needs. With the youngest Boomers celebrating their 50th birthday this year—and exponential growth in older age groups for many years to come—many new opportunities are available to support health and wellness. One such opportunity is a “balance center.”

Why balance?

What is a balance center, and why should you consider adding one? A balance center offers you the ability to address a significant need in the older-adult population—one that will only become more pressing given today’s changing demographics. Consider the picture in the United States, for example:

•  One in every three people older than 65 will fall this year.

•  Approximately half the age 65-plus individuals who have fallen will fall again in the next 12 months.

•  Strength- and balance-training programs could reduce the number of falls by up to 40%.

Few older adults have their balance screened by a physician prior to a fall despite the fact that many have a higher fall risk due to changes linked with aging. Yet falls can cause life-altering injuries or death. Even when individuals avoid injury in a fall, the fear associated with falling again can lead to social isolation, depression and a downward spiral in health. So falls have immense emotional and financial effects on older adults and their families and caregivers.

By addressing this issue with a balance center, you can expand your reach and tap into more than 30% of the age 65-plus market—all while helping individuals reduce fall risk, maintain independence and improve quality of life.

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Designing Goals and Environments that Support Healthy Resolutions

Guest Post from Active Living Research

How have your New Year’s resolutions been going? Like many people, I enjoyed the holiday season with plenty of good food and drink and then felt the urge to redeem myself with healthier habits once January 1 rolled around. But how often have you started a new year by walking a mile everyday or replacing your lunchtime soda with water, only to find yourself reverting back to old habits within a few weeks? In fact, most New Year’s resolutions ultimately fail. Then you inevitably blame yourself for lacking the willpower to stay disciplined. But the problem isn’t necessarily that you’re lazy or lack self-control. The real issue is our environments make it far too easy, cheap, and convenient to eat too much junk food and be sedentary.

Let’s face it. We are creatures of habit, temptations are very hard to resist, and many of us live in communities where it is difficult to walk, bike, or play due to a variety of barriers, such as a lack of sidewalks, a car-dependent environment, or having parks that feel unsafe or are located too far away.

However there is reason to be optimistic about developing sustainable healthy behaviors. The trick is in creating goals and environments with the right elements for success.

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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?

The 30 Second Annual Checkup?

Authored by IHRSA

“I don’t have enough time” is probably the most common excuse for not exercising, which is one of the reasons why the 7 Minute Workout has become a fitness sensation for individuals healthy enough to participate. 

According to the NY Times, the 7 Minute Workout “fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.”

And since the 7 Minute Workout requires nothing more than a wall and chair to complete, it goes a long way toward eliminating barriers to exercise on those days when a trip to the gym or local bike trail are out of the question.

I’m wondering if the concept of the 7 Minute Workout – condensing the elements of a program to maximize efficiency for time strapped individuals – could be applied in the primary care setting.

How about a 30-Second Annual Checkup?

Just the following two questions…

  1. In the last 7 days, on how many did you do moderate to strenuous exercise, like taking a brisk walk? 
  2. On the days that you engaged in moderate to strenuous exercise, how many minutes, on average, did you exercise at this level? (Based on the “exercise vital signs” developed by Kaiser-Permanente.)

 …and an appropriate exercise prescription.

Now, let me be clear. I am not a doctor and I am totally unqualified to be discussing medical protocol. But given a situation where a physician has a very limited window of time to gather information and provide feedback to a patient, is it unreasonable to think that physical activity should be the first topic of discussion?


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