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Posts tagged: fitness

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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Building a Business Case for Inclusive Fitness

Blog post by NCHPAD

February should be a time for implementation of your New Year’s focused goals and strategies, but are these tactics reaching out to the often most untapped market in the fitness industry— people with disabilities?


 Pictured above: JoAnne Fluke, Zumba® Instructor

Over 54 million Americans have a disability or activity limitation.  They represent a growing niche market for the fitness industry, but why?  Adults with disabilities have a 66% higher rate of obesity compared to those without disabilities; additionally, only 27.3% of people with disabilities met the Physical Activity Guidelines compared to 46.9% of the general population.  As a result, people with disabilities are more likely to be sedentary and experience substantial barriers to physical activity participation compared to the general population.  Along with the health disparities seen in people with disabilities, this group has a vast spending power according to the U.S. Department of Labor, making them a large and growing market.  

As fitness and health professionals, we all recognize the benefits of active opportunities for the general population, but shouldn’t these opportunities be made available to everyone?  Any effort to address the needs of people with disabilities is an opportunity to market and expand your program to a rising population.  Going beyond getting in the door and other ADA mandates, fitness organizations can benefit from treating inclusion as a value and recognizing differences among inviduals while still empowering those individuals to become active and contributory members.  Here are some tips for creating inclusive fitness environments:

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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?

Friends Don’t Let Friends Be Sedentary

Blog submitted by IHRSA

In a recent essay titled, “The Tribe Or The Person,” famed marketing guru, Seth Godin, asks, “are you trying to change an individual or are you trying to incite/inspire/redirect the tribe?”

The question is critical for any change agent, according to Godin, and the two answers should lead to very different approaches.

“If you focus on individuals,” he writes, “then the rule is: treat different people differently.”

“On the other hand, many marketers deal with culture. You put something into the world and it won’t work until it ‘catches on’. The goal is to catch on with the herd. Catching on isn’t a 1:1 private transaction. It’s a group phenomenon…”

What lessons can we, as physical activity advocates, draw from this framework of behavior change strategy? Most of us do not hold marketing degrees, but we are quite clearly attempting to “market” physical activity in some way. Are most physical activity promotions tailored and targeted to a specific audience (including an audience of 1) or do they tend to be more generalized?

Physical activity is notoriously difficult to promote and market. Unlike, say, the soft drink industry, whose marketers compete to sell the highest quantity of a product coveted all over the world for its instant gratification, the marketers of physical activity have to first convince their audience to try the product and actually exert some discomforting effort. Consequently, the percentage of Americans who are physically active has remained relatively constant (and low) for several years, despite a steady flow of research and media stories proclaiming the benefits of exercise.

We need to improve our marketing.

General messages about the benefits of physical activity aren’t good enough at the individual level.  There are over 300 million people living in America and they each have an internal story about who they are, what they do, and why they do it. Convincing an individual to be active often requires a marketer to understand that individual’s internal story: hopes, fears, aspirations, etc. It takes time and the outcome is always in doubt. It’s much easier to market soft drinks.


At the cultural level, I am hopeful that some current physical activity marketing campaigns will have a long-term impact. The First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign, for example, is infused with a collective, “we can do this together” spirit that feels, in this still early stage, like the beginning of a cultural shift about how we value physical activity (and having an extremely well known, popular, and physically active spokesperson is a nice bonus). Similarly, the “Designed To Move” campaign, championed by Nike and others, is helping to reshape how physical activity programs are delivered and promoted.

But we are still waiting for the big, breakthrough campaign that fundamentally changes the culture from largely inactive to active.

What will be the physical activity version of “Friends don’t let friends drink and drive,” “Give a hoot, don’t pollute,” and “Thank you for not smoking,” etc.?

Those messages created and strengthened social norms: it’s not okay to let your friends drive drunk, it’s not okay to throw trash on the ground, and it’s not okay to make everyone around you smell like a cigarette.

In America today, it is culturally okay to be sedentary.  And it’s okay to remain quiet as a friend experiences deteriorating health due to inactivity.  But should it be?  Should we, as physical activity marketers, strive to make it not okay? What should we do?

Constructing Functional Environments for Older Adults


The environment(s) that we build or live in are vital to enhancing our quality of life and our life experiences. Environments can encourage, or discourage, people of all ages to lead an active, engaged life. When it comes to creating compelling environments for your older consumer, think about how to design and build them so they are inclusive of all people and their abilities.

One place to start is with a visioning process. Bring together your staff, consumers, vendors and key partners to share their thoughts on your current or proposed settings, and what they feel will make the environment more compelling. Many times it can be the little things that make a difference. From the colors you choose, to ease of use, and creativity to inclusiveness, how you incorporate details matters.

Another strategic approach is to hire a group of older adults to visit your current place of business and those of your competitors. Ask them to write down what they liked and what they did not. Did the lighting make it easy to see? How were the bathrooms and locker rooms? Did the front desk, fitness areas, café, and so on enhance the experience or detract from it, and why? What would they change to make the environment more engaging? Once you have gained this market intelligence, create a large storyboard where recommendations, pictures and more can be placed in full view of your staff. (A meeting room or office area is the best location.) Start the process of improvement, and don’t stop until you have addressed everything on the board. Then ask the same group to walk through your location again. What are their reactions now? This simple method can help you create a compelling, inclusive, and ageless environment for your business.

A thought to ponder: Environments provide experiences, good and bad, and good experiences create memories that bring consumers back. How will you make your environment(s) compelling?