Be Active Your Way Blog
Tom is the Senior Manager of Public Policy for IHRSA, a nonprofit trade/advocacy group for fitness centers. As IHRSA’s Washington staff member, Tom coordinates IHRSA’s outreach to leading organizations and government agencies - such as HHS and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, Exercise is Medicine, the Campaign to End Obesity, the National Physical Activity Plan and others - to highlight the importance of physical activity to America’s health. In 2009 and beyond, Tom looks forward to advancing IHRSA’s support for policies and programs that increase the number of physically active Americans.
The obesity epidemic is a well-known crisis. Polling indicates that overwhelming majorities of the public are aware of the crisis, particularly as it relates to children. Obesity may be a resilient and notoriously complex issue to address, but it's no longer developing in the shadows of the public health landscape.
In contrast, the American inactivity crisis seems to swell beneath the public's consciousness. Of course, physical activity is often cited as a treatment or secondary preventive option for a range of chronic diseases, including obesity, but rarely is inactivity presented in popular media as a serious, widespread condition unto itself. Too often, the message received by the public seems to be that physical activity is something you do to "get better" from another condition.
The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is committed to engaging communities with a new message: a sedentary body is a sick body. Physical activity is not just something you do to "get better," it's something you do to avoid getting worse, even without any other underlying condition. Indeed, physical inactivity alone is a harmful disease, not just another risk factor.
We are certainly not the only organization intent on raising the volume of calls to fully address the inactivity crisis, but we aim to be one of the loudest.
We hope that our new message resonates with a broader cross-section of community members than existing anti-obesity campaigns, which may be overlooked by individuals of healthy weight. We want the public to understand that physical activity is important for everybody, regardless of BMI. Healthy weight does not necessarily equate to "healthy."
As a trade association for health clubs, we engage with thousands of communities through our member clubs. All across America, IHRSA clubs are serving their communities as true wellness providers, providing safe, fun and effective opportunities for physical activity. In many ways, these clubs are amplifying the dangers of inactivity at a very local level while teaching communities about the joys of an active lifestyle.
IHRSA has been a long-standing ally in the fight against obesity and our support for that effort remains steadfast and true. But we are looking forward to engaging communties with an urgent call for more physical activity for the sake of it. Just as the obesity and inactivity crises developed in tandem, so too may they be eradicated.
How do you think our message would resonate with your community?
Tags: inactivity, physical activity, sedentary, policy, preventing obesity
Corporate America agrees that employee wellness programs are good for business. According to the 2011 Employee Benefits report by SHRM, 60% of firms surveyed currently offer some type of employee wellness programming. Fitness center reimbursements are offered by 30% of the organizations surveyed, while 24% provide an onsite fitness center.
The case for employee wellness programming includes favorable data on reduced health care costs and increased worker productivity, among other metrics.
The usual data, however, may be failing to capture two of the most profound benefits of physical activity based employee wellness programs: improved mental health and increased mental performance.
As a result, many firms may be missing an opportunity to implement physical activity-based worksite programming that could lead to greater innovation and execution.
Two recent articles illuminate this opportunity.
A McClatchy commentary by IHRSA’s Executive VP of Public Policy notes: “The benefits that exercise brings to mental health are just one more reason why we need to implement public policies and community strategies that facilitate physical activity…When an individual is both physically and mentally well, he or she is more productive, more innovative, takes fewer sick days, contributes more to the gross domestic product, and collects fewer employer and government-paid disability and unemployment claims. In short, investing today in America’s physical and mental health is investing in our country’s future prosperity.”
A paper by Jack Groppel and Ben Wiegand of Wellness & Prevention, Inc. dives deeper into the biology of business performance and the relation to physical activity. “Remaining sedentary for extended periods (e.g. sitting at a workstation or in meetings for long periods of time) impairs the flow of blood and oxygen — particularly to muscles — which can often lead to fatigue,” write Groppel and Wiegand. “Engaging in physical activity can create brief periods of hyperoxygenation in the brain and increasing oxygen intake has been shown to enhance energy, mental performance and memory recall.”
In fact, Groppel and Weigand cite data suggesting that mental performance-enhancing biochemical changes in the brain may be spurred by as few as three hours/week of brisk walking.
As the health club trade association, we know there is a great opportunity for fitness centers to position their programs and facilities as evidence-based outlets for improving the mental health and performance of employees. But there are, of course, other practices that an employer can adopt, such as conducting walking meetings and encouraging employees to take fitness breaks throughout the day. Maybe even a little Instant Recess?
We’d love to hear from any organization that has had success marketing physical activity as a valuable tool to increase employee mental health…
Marketing Physical Activity | Physical Activity and Employers
The 2nd anniversary of the Let's Move! campaign provides a moment to raise awareness of the obesity epidemic and reflect on two years of real progress.
Thanks, in large part, to Let's Move!, concern over obesity now extends beyond public health circles and may be found in local schools, faith-based organizations, and town meetings. And, perhaps most importantly, the Let's Move! campaign seems to have ignited a golden age of innovation for anti-obesity programs designed to create sustainable healthy habits.
But what fascinates me most about Let's Move! is the role of its champion, First Lady Michelle Obama. Of course, her standing as First Lady provides her with a podium and an audience, but it has been the combination of her passion and energy that has fueled the development of countless initiatives around the nation. Quite simply, she has accomplished what very few studies or policy statements can ever hope to do - she has inspired people to take action.
She is widely viewed as a talented, charismatic communicator, but her skill set is by no means unique in America. American communities are full of passionate and energetic folks who can rally others to their causes. Community leaders are part of our national heritage.
One of this year's major goals for the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) will be to encourage and support the efforts of IHRSA health clubs - i.e. passionate fitness advocates - to transform their facilities to vital community hubs for healthy living and disease prevention. We believe, wholeheartedly, that the success of the Let's Move! team may be replicated on a local scale by fitness centers. In fact, it's already happening.
IHRSA's commitment to health promotion will be on full display this month at IHRSA's 31st Annual Convention & Trade Show in Los Angeles, CA.
The convention schedule includes sessions such as, "Leveraging Healthcare & Wellness Programming to Better Serve the Community," "If Exercise is Medicine, How do Health Clubs Cure Illness?" and "Lessons from Corporate Wellness to Get People Active."
The capstone session, however, will be a keynote presentation and panel with members of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition ("the Council") to discuss the IHRSA Joining Forces Network and other opportunities for health clubs to impact the wellness of their communities. IHRSA's Get Active America program, for example, will empower clubs to become champions for the Council's PALA+ program, which encourages folks to be active and improve their diet 5 days/week for at least 6 out of 8 weeks. Another offering, IHRSA's I Lost it at the Club, provides clubs with an 8-week turnkey program for responsible weight loss.
For more information on IHRSA's effort to support the operation of health clubs as vital community resources, please check out our Vision for a Healthier, More Prosperous America, and let us know what you think.
What are other organizations doing to create community champions?
Tags: Let's Move, Physical acitivty, childhood obesity, community leaders
Building Healthy Communities | Preventing Obesity
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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