News and information from the National Physical Activity Plan 12/2013

Building Healthy Places

As noted in the Transportation, Land Use, and Community Design sector of the NPAP, factors such as community design, development patterns, and transportation systems can have a profound effect on physical activity. Two recent reports released by the Urban Land Institute highlight the importance of health and place and align with several NPAP strategies.

The reports were a product of ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to examine how urban design and development can be enhanced to improve active living, social engagement, and community prosperity. ULI Chairman Lynn Thurber, chairman of LaSalle Investment Management in Chicago stated, “The Building Healthy Places Initiative is an extension of ULI’s ongoing pursuit of sustainable, thriving communities worldwide. The difference is that, with this effort, wellness is the intent, the designated outcome – not just an additional benefit of thoughtful design and development. Our focus will be on defining the role land use plays in creating healthy places for all generations.”

Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places identifies 10 important principles that can be used when building healthy communities. Conclusions from the report were drawn from panel held by ULI in Spring 2013 as well as multidisciplinary workshops. Principles outlined in the reports are hoped to improve a communities health and lead citizens to experience longer lives with better quality of life.

The second report, Intersections: Health and Built Environment, explores the trends in health and built environment and highlights the link between the two concepts. The report examines the relationship between health and the functionality of businesses and communities. Topics discussed in the report include global health trends, better health through community design, active transportation, healthy buildings, access to healthy foods, and clear air and clean water.


Using Technology to Boost Physical Activity in School

Schools play a vital role in children and adolescent opportunities to engage in daily physical activity. From physical education to recess to afterschool programs, schools offer numerous opportunities for students to engage in physical activity.  As recommended in the NPAP’s Education and Mass Media sectors, schools should prioritize providing high-quality, comprehensive physical activity opportunities. Some schools are incorporating innovative approaches by using technology to improve student physical activity.

In Lawrence, Kansas, a local high school P.E. teacher has integrated technology into the curriculum. Students wear a digital watch to monitor their heart rate during gym class. The watches provide direct feedback to students allowing them to monitor their effort throughout the class and ultimately keep track of their own health. Students gain autonomy through the process and learn how to properly gage their effort while being active. During class, each student’s is encouraged to maintain a heart rate between 140 and 180, which is an appropriate heart rate for adolescents engaged in activity. The physical effort required to maintain this heart rate is different for children of different fitness levels (i.e. more fit children will require higher levels of activity). For this reason, the watches make grading easier, since students can be evaluated on their own physical effort and not compared to other students.

Maryville, WA elementary schools have also gotten children excited about physical activity by incorporating technology into the school environment. As part of the Gear Up & Go! Program, fifth-graders wear their Sqord PowerPods all day to help them measure their daily physical activity. The bands, which are typically worn on the wrist, are accelerometers that capture multiple types of movements and activity. When students enter the classroom, they simply wave their band in front of a syncing station to record their activity. Students receive points for accumulated physical activity, approximately 4 points for every step. The school has organized competitions to encourage more physical activity and teachers note that every student seems to enjoy the addition of technology to monitor their activity levels.


Walkability = Good Business 

A recent report released by Active Living Research found that walkable shopping areas are good for business. Dr. Gary Hack and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania conducted a review examining the potential economic benefits to businesses located in walkable communities.

While past research has noted that walkable commercial areas are a key component to promote active living, the impact on local businesses was less clear prior to the review. The results indicate that businesses can be successful in walkable areas that have the ability to reach critical mass, cater to a diverse array of needs, are located in densely populated areas and/or have good public transportation service, and have a supermarket as an anchor. With the growing enthusiasm for walkable shopping areas, such centers have the potential to prosper, especially with increasing gas prices, public policies favoring higher density development, and preferences for walkability.

Importantly, approximately 45% of daily trips are made for shopping or running errands. For this reason, increasing the walkability of and to existing shopping areas has the potential to increase daily walking behaviors for many individuals. The findings of this report are encouraging and align with strategies and tactics outlined in the Transportation, Land Use, and Community Design sector of the NPAP.


The Obesity Society Recognizes Dr. Steven Blair with the 

Mickey Stunkard Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Steven Blair, a member of the NPAPA Board of Directors and a professor at the University of South Carolina in the Departments of Exercise Science and Epidemiology & Biostatistics, was recently awarded the Mickey Stunkard Lifetime Achievement Award by The Obesity Society. This honor is given to those who have made a lifetime of outstanding contributions to the field of obesity through scholarship, mentorship, and education.

“I am extremely grateful for the great honor of being selected by TOS for the 2013 Mickey Stunkard Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Dr. Blair. “I have always admired and respected Professor Stunkard for his excellent research and professional accomplishments, and I consider him the epitome of a true gentleman. I will always cherish this award, and I will do my best to promote excellent standards of research and practice to advance the mission of TOS.”

For more than four decades, Dr. Blair has made substantial contributions to the field through his research in the area of physical activity and health. His work has focused on the association between lifestyle and health, with special emphasis on exercise, physical fitness, body composition, and chronic disease. Around the world, Dr. Blair is recognized as one of the leading physical activity and obesity experts. He has delivered hundreds of lectures, publishing over 250 research articles, and is recognized for his countless contributions to the field. Dr. Blair has also contributed significantly to the NPAP, working with several sectors to promote the plan. Please join use in congratulating Dr. Steven Blair on this well deserved accomplishment!


New Guide Promotes Health In All Policies 

The Public Health Institute, California Department of Public Health, and the American Public Health Association recently released Health in All Policies: A Guide for State and Local Government.

The guide was created in response to the growing emphasis on collaboration between multiple sectors in efforts to improve population health. Overall, the guide calls for diverse groups of policy makers and government officials to work together in an effort to improve health, equity, and sustainability across communities. One of many important topics highlighted in the guide includes community access to affordable and safe opportunities for physical activity.  The NPAP is structured in a similar manner, highlighting the importance of increasing physical activity through collaboration of multiple sectors all working together to shape physical activity policies  and strategies that influence activity among all Americans.


Ainsworth Honored as Regents’ Professor

Earlier this month Arizona State University honored four professors with the Regents’ Professor award, the highest faculty honor given to the university’s most esteemed faculty. Recipients of the Regents’ Professor award are distinguished professors who have made pioneering contribution to their fields while maintaining a sustained level of distinction and acknowledgement of their influential accomplishments.  Awards will be presented at an induction ceremony on February 6, 2014.

Among recipients was Dr. Barbara Ainsworth, an internationally recognized researcher in the physical activity and public health field. Ainsworth currently serves as the associate director of the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion and as a professor of exercise and wellness in the Colleges of Health Solutions. During her career, Ainsworth has published nearly 250 research articles in several top tier journals. Her research has primarily focused on exploring the increasing prevalence of obesity across the lifespan as a critical societal issue. Ainsworth is perhaps best known for her role as lead author on an article exploring measurement and assessment of physical activity published in the Compendium of Physical Activity, a reference used worldwide to calculate energy expenditure for a large, diverse range of activities. During the course of her career, Ainsworth has contributed to the research field through a number of influential projects and publications. Some of which include the development of interventions promoting physical activity among vulnerable populations, the influence of neighborhood environments on physical activity, and the promotion of physical activity among disadvantaged and minority populations. We would like to invite you to join us in congratulating Dr. Ainsworth on this well-deserved honor.


ACSM Video Contest: 

Get Moving! Student Campaign to Promote Activity

Students attending the 2014 ACSM Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida are invited to participate in a video contest aimed at helping promote physical activity among conference participants. The student submitting the best video will be awarded a $500 prize and free conference registration! For more information or to register for the contest click here. Deadline to enter the contest is February 7, 2014.


Upcoming Conferences: 

11th Annual Active Living Research Conferences 

Join Active Living Research (ALR) in sunny San Diego at the Paradise Point Hotel, March 9 – 12, for the 2014 Annual Conference.  The theme of the 2014 conference, Niche to Norm, recognizes the importance of advancing active living from an emerging research field with limited results and impact to well-accepted findings that regularly guide decision-making across sectors to create more active communities.  Register by January 6 to receive the early bird rate.

Developing the Healthy Young Athlete: 

The Public Health Challenge and Opportunity Conference

This conference aims to harness the power of youth sports as one solution to society’s physical inactivity epidemic. The conference sponsors hope to highlight the importance of creating early positive experiences for children in order to improve the lives of children and strengthen families and communities. Early bird registration ends on January 10, 2014 so register soon!

Oliver Bartzsch is an experienced medical professional with over 15 years of professional experience. With a passion for medicine, fitness, and personal growth, he is always willing to challenge himself to accomplish tasks and especially to provide accurate medical information to people. Oliver is a long-time medical editor for multiple sites. With more than 10 years of medical writing experience, he has completed over 350 projects with both individual and corporate clients.


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