Getting people to move -- challenges in promoting physical activity

Dec 19, 2006

Programs that discourage smoking have been reasonably successful. However, public health programs that encourage physical activity have not. While the benefits of regular physical activity are well documented in the medical literature and the problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle are even more apparent, public health officials struggle for methods to promote increased physical activity that will work in American society.

In a study published in the January 2007 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers examine the challenges in promoting physical activity in a society less and less inclined to walk, run or exercise.

Writing in the article, Antronette K Yancey, MD, MPH, at the UCLA School of Public Health, states, "Although the science of physical activity promotion is advancing rapidly, the practice of promoting physical activity at a population level is in its infancy. The virtual absence of a public health practice infrastructure for the promotion of physical activity at the local level presents a critical challenge to chronic disease, and particularly obesity, control policy."

The authors examined the current public health infrastructure and found that there are political and systemic barriers to effective physical activity promotional efforts. Competing interests have often conspired to hamper such programs. For example, funding public school Physical Education often loses out to increased money for more academic programs. While healthy eating to prevent obesity is desirable, demonizing the food industry as the sole cause of obesity undermines the importance of physical activity and deflects attention from activity-restricting consequences of other industries. With the automobile, oil and tire industries putting us in cars and the movie/TV, video game and spectator sports industries putting us in chairs, the public is encouraged to remain sedentary. The message that there is a fuller spectrum of benefits from physical activity is easily lost.

Dr. Yancey continues, "Physical activity promotion constitutes a critical role for public health practice, given the increasing prevalence of inactivity and sedentary behavior, the substantial protection against obesity and chronic disease conferred by regular physical activity, the major contribution of sedentariness and obesity to health disparities and the increasing understanding of the central role that physical activity plays in overall health and quality of life. The public health infrastructure for physical activity promotion, while undeveloped and untested, is not unlike the public health infrastructure for other major health concerns before they were recognized as such. Given the evidence, the time is right to move forward with putting the infrastructure into place. To not do so is to place future generations at risk."

Source: Elsevier Health Sciences

Explore further: Leave the car at home for a healthier daily commute, say experts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Inside the cell, an ocean of buffeting waves

23 hours ago

Conventional wisdom holds that the cytoplasm of mammalian cells is a viscous fluid, with organelles and proteins suspended within it, jiggling against one another and drifting at random. However, a new biophysical ...

New technologies are improving the lives of seniors

15 hours ago

If Betty Lewis falls at the Edgemere senior living community, a pendant she wears around her neck will alert the staff. The device picks up the motion of the fall and notifies staff members at the North Dallas facility so ...

Tattoo biobatteries produce power from sweat

Aug 13, 2014

In the future, working up a sweat by exercising may not only be good for your health, but it could also power your small electronic devices. Researchers will report today that they have designed a sensor ...

Survey highlights ocean research priorities

Aug 13, 2014

Declines in ocean productivity, increases in ocean acidification, and the cumulative effects of multiple stressors on ocean health are among the most pressing issues facing coastal and maritime countries, according to a survey ...

Web-surfing at work has its benefits

Aug 04, 2014

A new e-memo for the boss: Online breaks at work can refresh workers and boost productivity. Early findings from a University of Cincinnati study will be presented on Aug. 5, at the 74th annual meeting of ...

Recommended for you

Mums trust mums on the net, according to study

3 hours ago

Facebook groups for mothers are overtaking the traditional mums-and-bubs and playgroup environments as a source of trusted advice, and offers a largely untapped marketing tool for businesses wanting to sell ...

User comments : 0