14068249358_eb7538d570_zPhoto by Steve Baker via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Last weekend The New York Times published an article about a plan put out by an alliance of public and private organizations that was designed to get Americans to be more physically active. They came up with the plan back in 2010, but alas “.  . . physical activity levels in the United States have barely budged.”
Children lack sufficient recess time to stay active, and only “. . . 20% of American adults meet the minimum national exercise guidelines of at least 150 minutes per week of mixed aerobic workouts and strength training.” So now they’ve came up with a new National Physical Activity Plan, with more recommendations and advice. Unfortunately, I think it is still not likely to do the trick. And the reason is because the plan is too general and lacks specificity.
The creators of the new National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) decided that people should stop thinking of exercise, and instead think of moving around more. That’s nice, however telling people that any physical activity counts for exercise makes people think that everyday living is exercise. Most people do at least one or two things during the day, besides sitting around. With the NPAP idea, anything physical counts as exercise, so you could believe: “I got up and went to the store today — I’m good!” Telling people to just “move more” is just not good enough. Over the course of teaching people to exercise for over 30 years, I have found that the more specific you can get with setting a goal, the more likely people will actually make an effort. Not to sound too political, but what this country needs is some real leadership and some real goals, not weak ideas.
First, we could really use some leadership by example. Remember when the media would show images of President George Bush running for exercise? People saw his commitment and were inspired. This led to a significant increase in people taking up running for exercise. I know that first lady Michelle Obama is great about promoting people to move more, especially children, but it apparently isn’t working all that well. Wouldn’t it be much more inspirational if we saw her doing a full work out in the gym with her trainer; sweating on the treadmill, doing push-ups, sit-ups, lifting some weight, stretching, and then posting her routine online, like a workout of the week. That would really give people something to aspire to.

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