The National Physical Activity Plan Wants Americans to Get Moving

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The US National Physical Activity Plan is calling for additional research into ways to educate and motivate people to exercise more and increased physical activity education for health care professionals.

The U.S. National Physical Activity Plan has a vision," says the program's official website. "One day, all Americans will be physically active and they will live, work, and play in environments that facilitate regular physical activity. Its ultimate purpose is to improve health, prevent disease and disability, and enhance quality of life."

The National Physical Activity Plan is to get Americans moving. Their goal is to have kids get on their bikes and ride to school. Once at school, they'll be playing active games and having physical education classes and doing recreational activities before and after school.

As for adults, they should be able to walk, bike or jog to work, the grocery store, participate in some sort of sporting activity or take exercise classes. Certainly, these are the goals that could be achieved with comprehensive strategies outlined in the new U.S. National Physical Activity Plan, which is being released today by an expert panel representing influential health organizations.

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Some of the ideas for the new plan includes to be sure that roadway spending includes money for "complete streets," accommodating cars, bikes and pedestrians. In some palces this means sidewalks. They also propose to have doctors assess patients' physical activity levels at appointments and discuss ways they can meet the activity guidelines. In addition it suggests that there is some sort of tax break for building owners or employers who provide amenities in workplaces that support active commuting, such as showers in buildings, secure bicycle parking, free bicycles or transit subsidies.

The plan sounds good but not everyone agrees the plan will get America moving. "Most people are overweight not because there isn't a sidewalk in their neighborhood but because we like to eat and we don't like to exercise," says David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C.

Barry Ford, the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity president said, “Implementing the policy changes recommended by the plan will help make the choice to be physically active the easy choice. The plan will inspire and guide the decisions of policymakers at every level and in every field, so that being physically active becomes second nature for most Americans.”

* 15 Ways to Combat Childhood Obesity by Making Fitness a Family Affair

Experts involved with the National Physical Activity Plan said it’s more than just telling people to exercise. “We are encouraging a new way of thinking about lifestyle, activity, mobility and general physical fitness,” 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.”

This page is updated on May 11, 2013.

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