Imagine a world in which physical activity is the norm. Every individual has access to safe, affordable, and easily accessible opportunities to engage in physical activity where they live, work, go to school, play and worship. The National Physical Activity Plan—which includes a comprehensive set of policies, programs and initiatives designed to increase physical activity in all segments of the U.S. population1—was developed on just that premise.
The fitness industry can make a huge impact in communities by becoming advocates for physical activity. An advocate is defined as a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. Advocates can be found among all walks of life—some are professional but the vast majority are simply passionate people who wish to effect change.
Exercise professionals are passionate by nature. They believe in what they do and work daily to empower people to make behavior changes that lead to healthier and more fulfilling lives. They are perfectly positioned to take that passion and apply it at the local, state, and even federal level to inspire communities, states, and the nation to enact policies that encourage and incentivize physical activity.
What can you do to position yourself as an advocate for change? Start with these simple yet powerful actions:
- Educate yourself on issues you feel strongly about.
The ACE Advocacy Center is an excellent place to jumpstart your research and explore our key policy positions and resources.
- Get to know your elected officials (local, state and federal).
These are the people who need to hear your thoughts and ideas for change. Visit their websites and read their materials on topics that interest you.
- Make your voice heard.
Communicate your thoughts, ideas and opinions to policymakers at all levels. Send a good, old-fashioned letter, call their offices and take it to social media.
- Get face-to-face.
Don’t be afraid to request a meeting with policymakers or invite them to relevant events. Policymakers and their staff regularly meet with constituents and in-person meetings are always a great way to communicate your passion for an issue.
- Exercise your right to vote.
If you are unhappy with policymakers and their decisions, do your research and use your vote to put someone more like-minded in office.
- Join or start a coalition of like-minded individuals or organizations.
There is nothing like the strength in numbers when working with policymakers who want to do what is best for the majority. Look beyond the obvious—make sure all stakeholder groups are represented even if some may seem non-traditional.
- Walk the talk!
Don’t assume that someone else is working to make change happen. Roll up your sleeves and lead by example. If you want a healthier community that is chockfull of opportunities for individuals and families to engage in affordable and safe physical activity, work to make that happen. Use the National Physical Activity Plan as a jumping off point for ideas that grab your interest.
The ACE Advocacy team welcomes your insights, questions and stories about what you’re doing to make your community a better place at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay abreast of physical activity-related policy issues and join the conversation at https://www.acefitness.org/advocacy/stay-informed/.
1. U.S. National Physical Activity Plan Coordinating Committee. National Physical Activity Plan: http://www.physicalactivityplan.org/theplan/about.html
Sheila Franklin is the Director of Government Relations at the American Council on Exercise.