Be Active Your Way Blog
May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month! This month, organizations, schools, worksites, and communities across the nation are celebrating the benefits of being physically active, and the strides we've all made to help Americans move more. During May, take some extra time to enjoy the fun and excitement of being physically active with your friends, coworkers, and family.
How are you or your organization recognizing National Physical Fitness and Sports Month? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contribute a blog post!
What do we know about physical activity among older adults?
For starters, physical activity is a powerful means to help prevent age-related loss of function, reduce the risk of chronic disease, improve mental and physical health, and support quality of life.
Older adults who exercise can:
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that older adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week. Recommended activities include strength-training, neuromotor exercise, functional training to improve balance, and flexibility excerise.
In general, strength training is important not only for fall prevention, fat metabolism, and bone health, but for the ability to perform daily activities such as lifting groceries. Cardiovascular conditioning reduces the risk of heart disease, improves endurance, and elevates mood. Improvements in flexibility aid regular activities like reaching, and ease certain conditions like arthritis. Improvements in balance help prevent falls and improve performance in sports and games.
Walking is the primary recommended activity, since it is inexpensive and simple. Only 12% of adults age 65 to 74 years old do strength training, but this is also an equally encouraged activity.
Aging is such a personal process that levels of physical fitness and function can not be recommended by chronological age. Some people in their '70s and '80s run marathons, while others are confined to wheelchairs. The prescription for physical actiivty must account for individual levels of function as well as the biological process of aging.
While the value of physical activity for older adults is well-documented,the number of older adults who exercise remains small. There is an unhealthy trend toward obesity in the older population, which is a future health problem. Other reports show that physical activity is more prevalent among white Americans than among ethnic groups or people of color.
Survey after survey finds that older adults know about the benefits of exercise, yet few take action. How do we change this?
The National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) is clearly a positive step forward, as it is filled with solid research and recommendations. However, like older adults themselves, we need to move from recognizing that physical activity is important to actually making change happen.
Making an Impact
How do we make an impact? How do we get organizations and individuals to embrace exercise? How do we fulfill the visions of the National Physical Activity Plan?
Maybe the answer lies within an August 27, 2012 New York Times article by Jane Brody. In the article, entitled, "Changing our Tunes on Exercise," Brody interviews Michelle L. Segar, a research investigator at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan. Brody writes that "based on studies of what motivates people to adopt and sustain physical activity, Dr. Segar is urging that experts stop framing moderate exercise as a medical prescription that requires 150 minutes of aerobic effort each week. Instead, public health officials must begin to address 'the emotional hooks that make it essential for people to fit it into their hectic lives.'"
"Immediate rewards are more motivating than distant ones," says Segar. "Feeling happy and less stressed is more motivating than not getting heart disease or cancer, maybe, someday in the future."
How can we benefit from this information? According to Brody, "stop thinking about future health, weight loss, and body image as motivators for exercise. Instead, experts recommend a strategy marketers use to sell products: portray physical activity as a way to enhance current well-being and happiness."
What do you think? Is this a promising strategy? And how will you use it to increase the physical activity level of your older consumer?
Tags: physical activity, older adults, NPAP, aging, exercise
National Plan | Older adults
You may have read here before about the National Physical Activity Plan, but wonder how it can be put into action on a local or individual level.
The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) is a proud advocate for the plan, which is a comprehensive set of strategies, policies, practices and initiatives aimed at increasing physical activity in the national population. Our goal is to produce a measurable and progressive increase in the percentage of Americans who meet recommended guidelines for physical activity throughout their lifetimes. The results we are looking for include improved health and well-being; increased productivity; reduction of health disparities; and lowered rates of disease, disability, and premature death attributable to sedentary lifestyles.
To carry out our work for the National Physical Activity Plan, NCPPA has built a network of eight industry sector teams, including business/industry, education, health care, parks and recreation, public health, and transportation. These teams of individuals work together to develop strategies and tactics aimed at getting people moving.
So how do the sector goals translate into specific actions and policies? One great example where the impetus for increasing physical activity has tremendous impact is the military. Mission: Readiness, an organization of over 200 retired generals, warns Congress that the tripling of childhood obesity rates over the past three decades means that one in four 17-24 year-olds in the United States is too overweight for military service. Only 22% of high school seniors have daily physical education, and many students in those classes still get little exercise. Mission: Readiness advocates for replacing unhealthy public school food and making physical education and activity part of the school day. Over a 10-year period, the number of states with 40% or more of young adults who were overweight or obese went from 2 to 43, the group said. This is not only a public health issue, but one of national security.
Mission: Readiness continues to pushing state and school districts to increase physical education so more children will be physically fit and, therefore, prepared for military service.
CEO Pledge on Physical Activity
Another example of the NPAP in action is the campaign launched by NCPPA's Business & Industry Sector called the CEO Pledge on Physical Activity. On September 24, 26 CEOs of corporations and organizations committed themselves to being physically active, and signed the pledge to provide their employees with opportunities to engage in physical activity. The pledge reads:
For the betterment of my company, our employees, their families, and our country, I pledge to improve employee health and wellness by providing opportunities and resources for physical activity before, during or after the workday, and to enhance my own health and wellness by engaging in regular physical activity.
"Research studies show that overall employee happiness and productivity are enhanced by daily exercise, especially when accessibility and support to exercise come from within the corporate environment," NCPPA President Laurie Whitsel told CEOs assembled at a Capitol Hill signing ceremony. The lack of physical activity is a leading contributor to the nation's obesity crisis, and work-related concerns often create hurdles to employee access to opportunities for physical activity."
Below: Three CEOs present their signed Pledge on Physical Activity certificates. From left to right: Dave Pickering, Preventure; Brian Biagioli, National Council on Strength & Fitness; and Scott Goudeseune, American Council on Exercise.
Below: Sue Liebenow of L&T Fitness signs the pledge.
"The CEO Pledge makes clear that business leaders have an influential role to play in addressing our country's health and health care crises," said Joe Moore, President and CEO of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, and one of the first to sign the pledge. "With most working adults spending roughly half their waking hours on the job on the days that they work, it is incumbent upon business and industry leaders to become part of the solution. By promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles within the workplace, CEOs help their company's bottom line, but they also help society."
These are just two examples of how the National Physical Activity Plan is being put into action around the country every day. Please friend NCPPA on Facebook for more information and updates on the plan. And please check out our CEO Pledge page on Facebook, as well.
How are you implementing the National Physical Activity Plan?
Tags: Physical Activity Plan, CEO pledge, military, school fitness
Events | National Plan | Physical Activity and Employers | Schools
This past month, the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) unveiled its new Presidential Youth Fitness Program. At first blush, it may seem like simply an update of the youth test familiar to generations of Americans. But that impression would represent a profound misunderstanding of the intent and content of the new test.
In fact, the Presidential Youth Fitness Program marks a fundamental shift in our national discourse on youth fitness.
As described in the PCFSN program materials, "The Presidential Youth Fitness Program places emphasis on the value of living a physically active and healthy lifestyle - in school and beyond."
Furthermore, Dr. Jayne Greenberg, a member of the PCFSN and school district administrator in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, notes that the program will "focus primarily on assessing health versus athleticism for America's youth."
So, basically, the test is no longer a tool for determining which kids won the athletic gene pool lottery. Now it's about assessing and tracking the health of American children. We at IHRSA wholeheartedly, unequivocally, and most enthusiastically applaud this new approach.
The need for this new test is urgent. While we celebrate the launch of the test, policymakers must also grapple with the "F as in Fat Report" released this month by the Trust for America's Health, which suggests that adult obesity rates could reach 60% in 13 states by 2030. All 50 states, according to the report, could experience obesity rates over 44% within 20 years.
We know that the causes of sedentary, unhealthy behaviors are varied and highly individualized, but surely the stigmatization of being labeled "unathletic" at an early age lingers destructively for many older Americans. In this new era of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, young Americans will learn that physical activity is more than just a pull-up test or rope climb. They will learn that it's a gateway to a happier, healthier, and more productive life, regardless of one's ability to complete 60 sit-ups in one minute.
At IHRSA, we are committed to elevating and celebrating the best health club-based youth programs.
In a recent segment of IHRSA's "Ask an Industry Leader" series, we asked, "In a time when childhood obesity is at the forefront, what are good strategies for children/teen programming to get youth in my community more active and engaged in the club?"
Bill Parisi, Founder and CEO of Parisi Speed School, responded:
Youth fitness is all about motivation and engagement. Kids are noth thinking health and longevity, they want to have fun, be competitive, and most importantly, be accepted by their peers." [I also encourage clubs to] make your program inviting to the non-athlete by hiring staff who truly loves kids. The program itself does not have to be overly complicated, but it should be professional. You should have a respected youth performance brand, credible staff, and an environment that is motivating and professional.
What are some other successful strategies for creating effective youth programming?
Tags: physical activity, schools, Presidential Youth Fitness Program
Childhood Obesity | Schools
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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