News and information from the National Physical Activity Plan 08/2013

I.O.M. Releases New Report on PA and PE in Schools 

On May 23, 2013 the Institute of Medicine released “Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School.” This consensus report examined how physical activity and fitness affect health outcomes, the status of physical activity and physical education efforts in schools, and what can be done to help schools get students to become more active.

The report provides recommendations and potential actions in six key areas:

  • Taking a Whole-of-School Approach.
  • Considering Physical Activity in All School-Related Policy Decisions.
  • Designating Physical Education as a Core Subject.
  • Monitoring Physical Education and Opportunities for Physical Activity in School.
  • Providing Preservice Training and Professional Development for Teachers.
  • Ensuring Equity in Access to Physical Activity and Physical Educations.

Many of the report’s recommendation are consistent strategies and tactics from the National Physical Activity Plan’s Education Sector.


NYC Working Hard to Improve Physical Activity of New Yorkers

The City of New York is pursuing several key initiatives aimed at increasing physical activity levels of New Yorkers. Initiation of a bike-sharing program, an Executive Order from the city’s mayor, and the honoring of elementary schools that have created physical activity-friendly environments, are three examples of how the Big Apple is taking on the challenge of helping its residents and visitors increase their activity levels.

Bike-sharing is a service where bikes are made available for shared use on a short-term basis. Implementation of a bike-sharing program in New York City will make the city more physical activity-friendly, offering more forms of “active transportation.” The New York City Department of Transportation stated that 56 percent of car commutes were less than three miles. With the bike sharing plan, those car commutes can be exchanged for ten-minute bike commutes, which will not only help more New Yorkers realize the health benefits of physical activity, but may also prove to be a more time-efficient means for travel. The goal of this project is to make it easier for New Yorkers to get around their city and to facilitate a safer and healthier environment. With just a few days worth of commuting via bike-sharing, more New Yorkers are likely to meet federal physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity. NYC’s bike-sharing program represents successful implementation of recommendations from the NPAP’s  Transportation, Land Use, and Community Design sector.

In addition to bike-sharing, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently issued an executive order to incorporate active design principles into city construction. The executive order includes three primary components:

  1. Use of the city’s Active Design Guidelines and Street Design Manual.
  2. Promotion of Stairway Use.
  3. Training with key city agencies to enhance capacity of the Active Design Program.

Finally, twenty-four elementary schools in New York City were recently honored by the New York State Health Department with the Gold School Wellness Award for their efforts to create a healthy school environment. Additionally, over 50 schools in NYC were recognized by the NYC Health Department for making changes to facilitate a more active and healthy environment. Examples of these alterations include a 1-2 mile run before school starts and the creation of a wellness curriculum that focuses on exercise, healthy eating and nutrition. The children have opportunities to be active during school as well by incorporating small bouts of exercise during a lesson with the goal of reaching 120 minutes per week. Many of the efforts employed by these schools represent successful implementation of strategies and tactics from the National Physical Activity Plan’s Education sector.

The many environmental changes happening in NYC combine transportation, community design, schools, and economic development with public health planning to increase physical activity. New York City is to be commended for engaging this multi-sectorial approach to increasing physical activity opportunities residents of and visitors to the Big Apple.

W.H.O. Releases Report on Promoting Physical Activity


The WHO Regional Office for Europe recently launched a policy summary and full report  on promoting physical activity in socially disadvantaged groups. Because research reveals that low levels of physical activity are often found in socially disadvantaged groups, “one substantial part of the project was the development of guidance on physical activity promotion in disadvantaged groups, with a focus on the role of healthy environments.”

The policy summary includes the following principles for targeted interventions:

  • Identify the target group and the expected outcomes specifically.
  • Recognize that more effort may be required to reach the target group.
  • Consider using peers or local facilitators to promote activities.
  • Include evaluation in comparison to other population groups, recognizing that health improvements can only be achieved in the long term.
  • Combine changes to the environment with behavioral, social and/or information-related measures.
  • Ensure that the target group has easy access to opportunities for physical activity.

The policy summary summarizes main conclusions for this part of the project and the full report presents the key findings of the project.   Both provide “suggestions for national and local action on interventions and policy formulation to support physical activity in socially disadvantaged groups.”


 Bloomfield, NJ Plan to Build Bike-Friendly Routes 

The city of Bloomfield, NJ is taking steps to become a more bike-friendly and walkable city. A $10,000 Shaping NJ Grant from the New Jersey Department of Health Bloomfield was awarded to the city in hopes of reducing childhood obesity in the state. The plans are still being finalized, but will eventually link major roads to schools and parks. Based on polling and interviews, residents provided a number of suggestions for the city to consider that included:

  • Increasing options for transportation.
  • Restricting parking in certain areas to include bike lanes in both directions.
  • Adding more bike lanes on busy streets.
  • Putting up more “Share the Road” markings.

As recommended in the Transportation, Land Use, and Community Design sector of the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP), this project provides improved infrastructure such as increased connectivity and accessibility to community destinations, which are known to yield increases in physical activity.


Students’ Academic Performance Serves as Motivation for Policy Change 

The state of Colorado and Oklahoma City, OK are both looking at student’s academic performance as a reason for policy change.

The link between nutrition and physical activity and academic performance served as motivation for the Millwood School District in Oklahoma City, OK, to implement a policy that will produce a healthier community. On June 3, the school district passed a wellness policy that focuses on improving nutrition and integrating more physical activity throughout the school day. The policy will require more healthy fundraisers and healthy food preparation training, along with improved nutrition standards and physical activity requirements. The policy complies with the Institute of Medicine’s recommended standards for all foods and beverages within federally reimbursable meal programs.

Engaging in regular physical activity may help students maintain healthy body weight, increase attention on certain tasks, and improve academic performance. In 2011, Colorado created a state law requiring 30 minutes of physical activity a day for elementary school students. State laws in Colorado requiring physical activity may be why Colorado is one of the fitter states in the country.  The new policy requires that each school provides opportunities for the equivalent of 30 minutes of physical activity a day which could include gym class, recess, stretch breaks, and field trips that involve walking.

As progressive as Colorado may be, many public health advocates in the state would like to see even more comprehensive physical activity-related laws put in place.  For example, there currently are no reporting requirements for 30 minutes of PA per day, so it is uncertain exactly how schools are complying.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends children to get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical movement a day to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

NC Prevention Partners to Offer Two Important Webinars on Physical Activity  

The NC Prevention Partners, the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) are working together to produce a two-part webinar series on physical activity titled “U.S. National Physical Activity Plan: Guidelines for Americans to be Physical Active Where they Live, Work, and Play.” The first webinar will occur at 3:30 p.m. ET on Aug 6 and will be led by Dr. Russell Pate of the Alliance and Dr. William Kraus from Duke University Medical Center. They will give an overview of the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan and provide strategies for increasing physical activity in our nation.

The second webinar will be held on September 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be led by Dr. Katrina Butner from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ ODPHP. She will discuss “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Midcourse Report: Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Youth,” which was released earlier this year. She will address the key findings and discuss ways to increase physical activity in schools and among youth.

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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