The Active People, Healthy Nation initiative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a mission of helping 27 million Americans become physically active and “creating an active America, together.”
There are three distinct elements involved in reaching that 27 million milestone: (1) inspiring inactive individuals to perform at least one 10-minute session of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, (2) motivating people who are already somewhat active to perform enough physical activity to meet the minimum aerobic physical activity guidelines and (3) empowering youth to be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day.
The first of those three elements can be the most challenging for health coaches and exercise professionals, as “inactive people” are not typically reaching out to you for guidance. In fact, they often don’t see physical activity as relevant in their lives and may even discount the importance or practicality of being physically active.
For this reason, you must seize every opportunity to have meaningful conversations with these folks whenever you can and try to positively impact their lives, whether these dialogues take place in a professional setting or in your daily life.
One of the goals when working with these individuals is to increase their awareness of the risks of maintaining the status quo and the benefits of making a behavioral change. One way to accomplish this is by exploring the individual’s personal values and then focusing on how physical activity can be of relevance to them. You’ll likely find that everyone has some aspect of their life that would benefit from increased physical activity, whether that’s being able to sit at their desk pain-free, getting better sleep or being better able to keep up with their kids or grandkids.
If you can link physical activity to a person’s values, you have taken the first step toward inspiring them to get moving toward better health and wellness.
A Note on Green Exercise
People who are currently inactive would benefit from any level of physical activity, so a structured program may not be necessary at the outset. Instead, encourage them to make small, but meaningful behavioral changes, like heading outside for a walk on their lunch break or each evening after dinner. Remember, the CDC’s goal for this population is to encourage them to perform at least one 10-minute session of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, so a short walk would meet that objective.
Green exercise—defined as any physical activity performed in a natural environment—yields benefits beyond those associated with the exercise itself, including improved cognitive function, enhanced cardiac function and reduced stress hormone levels. Your role is to make the connection between these potential benefits and the goals and values of your clients. And let’s be honest—who couldn’t use a little stress reduction these days?