By Sheri Colberg, Ph.D.
How many of your patients made a New Year’s resolution to get more physically active? If they’re like the rest of the American population, a whole lot of them did. How many of them will follow through on this goal, though, and even more importantly, how many of them will still be active six months from now even if they do start out the year right? Statistically speaking, the odds are against them: more than 50 percent of people drop out of exercise programs within six months of starting them. But how many of them could benefit physically and psychologically from being regularly active? All of them!
You may not have heard yet about the National Physical Activity Plan, but it has been under development for a couple of years now and includes input from many individuals and organizations that congregated in July 2009 in Washington, DC, to discuss how to develop the plan around 2008 federal exercise guidelines for Americans (www.health.gov/paguidelines). You may ask why a plan for the United States is just being developed now. Other countries (e.g., U.K. and Australia) have tried with varying degrees of success to implement national physical activity plans, as have some of the states in the U.S. individually. The United States has never had a national plan before. One thing is certain, though: to be really successful, it needs a lot of backing of all sorts.
The real answer to why a plan is finally being developed is that a couple of years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, along with the U.S. Surgeon General, called upon the U.S. to adopt a national physical activity plan, stating that, "The greatest wealth is health" (Virgil). The relationship between physical inactivity and non-communicable disease has been scientifically documented repeatedly. Moreover, the costs for treatment of these preventable diseases are rising at an alarming rate (such as diabetes, which is expected to double in incidence in the U.S. by 2034). Despite efforts to increase physical activity levels no significant increase in physical activity at the population level has been realized.
In order to reverse the upward trends of obesity and preventable disease, Americans absolutely must become more physically active. At work, home, school, and other settings, being physically active must be encouraged and made readily available. However, this will not happen without all facets of American culture unifying behind a single plan. Thus, the time is now for the U.S. National Plan for Physical Activity.
As stated on the Plan’s web site (www.physicalactivityplan.org), their mission is to develop a national, unified plan that produces a marked and progressive increase in the percentage of Americans who meet physical activity guidelines throughout life. Their goals are the following:
- Make a compelling and urgent case for increasing physical activity in the American population.
- Provide a clear roadmap for actions that support short and long term progress in increasing Americans’ physical activity.
- Develop strategies for increasing physical activity in all population subgroups and reducing disparities across subgroups.
- Create a sustained and resourced social movement that provides for ongoing coordination, partnerships, capacity building, and evaluation.
- Develop new and innovative strategies for promoting physical activity.
- Undergo periodic evaluation to assess achievements in increasing physical activity.
If you need tips for getting started on an exercise program, check out my book entitled The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan. For people with any type of diabetes who are already more active, you will benefit more from Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook. For other tips on exercise, fitness, diabetes, nutrition, and more, please visit my Web site and exercise blog at www.shericolberg.com.