04:59am Wednesday 13 November 2019

First National Physical Activity Plan Is Up And Running

WASHINGTON – The first national, comprehensive plan to support and encourage physical activity among all Americans was released today at an event in Washington, D.C. A wide range of public policy recommendations across eight broad sectors, the National Physical Activity Plan is the product of a 10-month, public/private collaboration of experts in diverse fields.

“This is a national initiative that goes well beyond just telling people to exercise. We are recommending policies, programs and initiatives that will change our communities in ways that enable all Americans to be physically active,” said Russell Pate, Ph.D., chair of the National Physical Activity Plan. “It’s well established that physical activity brings manifold health benefits, but we need to change people’s behavior. The Plan provides a roadmap for change, addressing everything from the education of health professionals to zoning laws, school policies and workplace wellness programs.”

The Plan is, in part, an answer to America’s alarming rates of adult and childhood obesity and decreasing levels of physical activity. Research has shown that physical activity and exercise can help prevent and treat obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, depression, bone disease, cancer and other diseases. If implemented, measures called for in the National Physical Activity Plan could significantly improve public health, cut health care costs, and reduce health disparities.

Leaders in public health, transportation, government, education, business and other fields will announce the Plan at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The product of a public/private partnership, the Plan calls for policy, environmental and cultural changes to help all Americans enjoy the health benefits of physical activity. The vision is that all Americans are physically active and live, work, and play in environments that facilitate regular physical activity. The Plan is an ongoing collaboration of scores of nonprofit organizations, corporations and public agencies serving as partners, affiliates and sponsors.

Following the announcement, leaders will brief Members of Congress and their staffs about the National Physical Activity Plan. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), who serves on the Health subcommittee of the Ways and Means committee, sponsored the briefings. 


Russell Pate, Ph.D., FACSM (Fellow, American College of Sports Medicine)
University of South Carolina
Chair, National Physical Activity Plan

Robin M. Ikeda, M.D., MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Deputy Director, Office of Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury and Environmental Health
Acting Director, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Barry Ford
United States Tennis Association
President, National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity

Shellie Pfohl
Executive Director, President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports

Nancy Brown
CEO, American Heart Association

Robert E. Sallis, M.D., FACSM
Past President, American College of Sports Medicine

Katie Adamson
Director of Partnerships & Health Policy, YMCA of the USA 

  • The Plan presents a call to action with specific strategies for each sector, for example:
  • Education: Develop and implement policies requiring school accountability for quality and quantity of physical education and physical activity
  • Health Care: Make physical activity a patient “vital sign” that all health care providers assess and discuss with patients
  • Transportation/Planning: Local, state, and federal agencies will use routine performance measures and set benchmarks for active travel (walking, biking, public transit)
  • Recreation: Enhance the existing parks and recreation infrastructure with effective policy and environmental changes to promote physical activity.
  • Business/Industry: Identify and disseminate best practice models for physical activity in the work place

The Plan Process
Pate led a process that identified strategies and tactics for eight key areas of society that have a direct impact on the physical activity levels and health of people in the United States. Eight working groups collaborated under the guidance of a 23-member Coordinating Committee. The eight sectors are:

  • Business & Industry
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Mass Media
  • Parks, Recreation, Fitness & Sports
  • Public Health
  • Transportation, Urban Design & Community Planning
  • Volunteer & Non-Profit Organizations

Putting the Plan into Action, Locally
Governors and mayors throughout the United States have proclaimed today National Physical Activity Day. “This level of support from elected leaders is very encouraging,” said Pate. “Successfully implementing the Plan will depend, in large part, on the willingness of leaders at every level to enact the kinds of changes that will encourage and allow people to become more physically active. Currently, there are too many barriers to active lifestyles and too many Americans are left behind.”

A novel event planned for Washington, D.C., and carried nationally on the Pacifica Radio Network offers an example of bringing National Plan principles to the grassroots. The Plan’s May 3rd launch also marks the kickoff of Instant Recess® Let’s Move D.C. Instant Recess encourages 10-minute physical activity breaks at venues such as worksites, sports facilities, schools, youth programs and churches. Instant Recess creator Antronette Yancey, M.D., said, “We’re fighting the inactivity epidemic 10 minutes at a time.”

Following the launch, the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) will lead implementation, working with the organizations designated to coordinate teams focused on each of the eight sectors. “We envision communities that are walkable, schools that understand and embrace the link between physical activity and academic achievement, and workplaces that celebrate opportunities to be physically active as a way to enhance the bottom line,” said NCPPA President Barry Ford. “Physical activity of all types is critical to building healthier and more livable communities, and It is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.”

“A comprehensive physical activity plan cannot be a one-stop shop approach,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of American Heart Association. “This important initiative will require a coordinated commitment from all sectors of our community – business, education, health care, transportation and others – to develop and implement strategies that will encourage all Americans to make physical activity a part of our daily lives.”

Numerous partner organizations will help to implement the plan at the national, regional and grassroots levels. Collectively, they will promote public policy, track results, and launch a cause-related marketing campaign to engage all audiences.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Prevention Research Center at the University of South Carolina provided the organizational infrastructure for the Plan. Leaders explained that making a compelling and urgent case for increasing physical activity in the American population entails:

  • Providing a clear roadmap for increasing Americans’ physical activity in both the short-term and long-term
  • Developing strategies for increasing physical activity in all sectors of society and addressing disparities
  • Creating a social movement to sustain interest and involvement
  • Developing new strategies for promoting physical activity
  • Monitoring progress to assess achievements in increasing physical activity
  • At least 12 states and a number of other countries have enacted physical activity plans, establishing best practices for making physical activity a routine part of daily life. Information about the U.S. Plan is available online at www.physicalactivityplan.org.


The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national, and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

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