ACE envisions a world in which obesity and other preventable lifestyle diseases are on the decline because people have been understood, educated, empowered, and granted responsibility to be physically active and committed to healthy choices.
In 2011, we set a goal. By the year 2035, the obesity epidemic will be over, and the health and fitness profession will have substantially contributed. Thus ACE calls for systemic change in eight areas.
1. Proactive Involvement from Local Leaders
Thoughtful local leaders have begun integrating health into all aspects of city planning so that becoming and staying active becomes easier and more appealing. Communities from East Lake Meadows in Atlanta, GA to Philadelphia, PA are experiencing measurable results from adjustments to the built environment coupled with meaningful policy change.
- Even greater recognition among local and regional policymaking bodies of the value of investing in healthier communities.
- Early adopters to vigorously share their recipe for success to help cities not as well equipped.
- More—and more diverse—stakeholders to join local leaders at the planning table.
2. Greater Access and Innovation in Fitness
We are witnessing an explosion in technological and programming innovation in fitness, but there is inequity in access. The 2014 White House Research Forum on Improved Health and Fitness for Americans with Disabilities, and campaigns such as "Commit to Inclusion," have begun pinpointing populations that may be overlooked with respect to fitness opportunities, even though they stand to greatly benefit.
- Fitness offerings tailored to the needs and interests of the surrounding community.
- Programming to include populations that have sometimes been ignored by the fitness industry, such as persons with disabilities.
- Continued efforts to be placed on development and refinement of technology applications tailored to fitness.
3. Fitness In the Workplace
With the Affordable Care Act's "essential health benefits" and commitment in the commercial sector, the conversation about scaling workplace wellness is underway. But there is little hard guidance from regulatory authorities, innovation is stifled by uncertainty, and there's no clear path forward for small- and medium-sized businesses (where most Americans actually work). There are also lingering questions about return on investment (ROI).
- An evolution from a singular focus on ROI to multidimensional focus on return on value. (Think increasing employee attraction and retention.)
- Fitness and recreational facilities in communities to become places where programming is provided to better ensure employee privacy.
- Businesses to tap the content, programming, facilities, and qualified expertise that are available around them.
4. Federal Funding for Livable Communities
Livable communities are more sustainable, healthier, and ultimately lower cost. Yet year after year, funding for such valuable programs as the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is under siege. Funding that enables communities to get active is treated like an unnecessary luxury—it shouldn't be.
- Expansion of Safe Routes to School to include Safe Routes to Community Places.
- Policymakers to recognize that bike/pedestrian projects are a critical piece of the nation's surface transportation act.
- Widespread adoption of shared-use policies to increase accessibility of professionally led physical activity on public lands.
5. More Collaboration Among Fitness andHealthcare Organizations
When it comes to population health, what happens in the community is just as important as what happens in the doctor's office. Recommending authorities like the United States Preventive Services Task Force and the Trust for America's Health are increasingly calling for a full rethink of the preventive care system to include community-based preventive interventions on a population scale.
- Investment to be made in dialogue among all parties that could constitute the physician-extender network.
- An expanded, rigorous, stakeholder-wide conversation about how to place even greater emphasis on preventive services.
6. Healthier Choices and Education
There is growing realization of the importance of integrating healthy habits into schools, but there remains no clear path to getting students moving throughout the school day. National recommendations call for children to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, yet the U.S. Report Card on Physical Activity found that less than half of children are getting the recommended amount.
- More resources to be made available to teachers on incorporating physical activity into learning.
- School wellness policies to address physical education and physical activity not only during the day but also in before-school, after-school, and out-of-school programs; these opportunities should include families.
- Schools and communities to provide access to their facilities for recreational use outside of school hours.
7. Greater Inclusiveness to Encourage Fitness for All
People have heard the importance of getting regular physical activity, but the "system" is wholly failing to meet people where they are in a way that is sensitive to their health status, culture, and circumstances. The face of fitness is changing, but vastly more work needs to be done to make fitness accessible and inviting to those who don't already have it.
- A new message to encourage more individuals to begin adopting lifelong fitness habits by highlighting that it's not about intense physical exercise, but about movement.
- Facilities to adopt programs that engage those beyond the highly fit because fitness must endeavor to be relevant, even integral, to the entire community.
- Behavioral lifestyle coaching to help community members make physical activity a regular part of everyday life.
8. Engagement with Low-Income Communities
Huge disparities exist in the health of those living in low-income communities. Leading authorities highlighted the wide racial, ethnic and income disparities in overweight and obesity rates in their 2014 annual report The State of Obesity, and the need for much more work to be done in these communities is clear.
- Health and wellness commitment and leadership to come from within the local community.
- Health workers from within the community who are culturally sensitive to be better leveraged to impact the population.
- Creative shared-land use initiatives and partnerships to be implemented so individuals have access to safe places to stay physically active.
AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE
From Our President
In my 14 years at ACE, I can't remember a more interesting time for this organization or our industry. ACE is fortunate to see our organization stretched and tested as rapid changes occur in the way our nation thinks about health and fitness. We hold a unique opportunity to boldly lead.
ACE seeks an invitation for our professionals – health coaches, personal trainers, Medical Exercise Specialist and group fitness instructors – to a much larger table. The pressure that the obesity epidemic is placing on the nation's healthcare system and economy is driving interest in new ways of tending to the health of our nation's people. Our healthcare ecosystem is slowly beginning to acknowledge that prevention may indeed be the best answer.
It's a tremendous opportunity. It's time to reach beyond the gym walls and the long-committed fit and to bring our know-how to exponentially more people, those at risk of obesity and those already victims of it. With smart, science-based, sensitive programming, we can place far more people on the path to sustainable good health. This idea is new, different, and to some in our space, uncertain. Yet it is our new imperative.
Founded in 1985, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization committed to America's health and wellbeing. Over the past 30 years, we have become an established resource for health and fitness professionals, and the public, providing comprehensive, unbiased research and validating ourselves as the country's trusted authority on health and fitness.
Today, ACE is the largest nonprofit health and fitness certification, education and training organization in the world with more than 60,000 certified professionals who hold more than 67,000 ACE Certifications. With a long heritage in certification, education, training and public outreach, we are among the most respected organizations in the industry and a resource the public has come to trust for health and fitness education.
Get a more in-depth look at the work ACE has done in the past year, as well as the progress our country has made in responding to the obesity and chronic disease epidemics.