It’s that time of year again—when gyms, trails, studios and pools are filled to the brim with “resolutioners.” Any number of sources list “exercise more” (of some variation thereof) as one of the top three New Year’s Resolutions for any given year and 2018 is no different!
Studies also tell us that the vast majority of such “resolutioners” lose their resolve quickly—in fact U.S. News & World Report says that 80% of resolutions fail by the second week in February. It is easy to make a resolution to move more, get in shape or lead a healthier lifestyle. But it is far more difficult to stick to it. Personal resolve is certainly part of stick-to-itiveness but there are several types of policy initiatives that can encourage people to become (and stay!) active.
Policy happens on a variety of levels including federal, state and local; and it also happens in the workplace. Policy changes focused on physical activity can make it more accessible, more affordable, more fun and even safer. Such changes can help lessen or even eliminate some barriers to physical activity. Here are four examples of policies that can help get people moving in 2018:
The most promising piece of physical activity legislation in Congress is the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT-S. 487/H.R.1267). PHIT would allow the use of health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts for most forms of physical activity. The bill has achieved some promising momentum, with over 100 House and Senate members demonstrating their support by “signing on” as co-sponsors. Advocates are optimistic that further action may be taken on the bill in coming months. It is important that members know this is something their constituents want, and you can help by clicking here to tell your Representative and Senators that you support the bill and asking them to co-sponsor it.
Physical activity legislation at the state level comes from a variety of perspectives but it is often focused on getting youth moving. Recess has disappeared from many school systems across the nation, but state policymakers have the power to utilize the law to require recess in all public schools. Many studies have shown the far-reaching benefits of recess. One example of such a policy is a currently pending Delaware bill (DE H 10) that would require all children enrolled in K-8 public schools to have 2, 10-minute recess periods per day.
There are many ways that local policymakers can contribute to getting their communities moving. They range from making communities more walkable by building sidewalks and paved trails for walking and rolling; creating bicycle paths; installing appropriate lighting; providing plenty of park space; and ensuring that there are affordable and accessible facilities like athletic fields and pools.
One highly effective action local policymakers can take has the potential to make a tremendous impact on the fitness industry: the development of fair shared-use policies for professionally led physical activity. These policies open schools, parks and other facilities to well-qualified exercise professionals who can offer services ranging from personal and small group training to group exercise classes. Cities across the nation have put such policies into place, often collaborating with local exercise professionals to develop the policies and ensure they are fair to all.
Santa Monica, CA gained international news coverage several years ago when they initially developed their policy. They have continued to evaluate and refine the policy to get the best results possible. For example, in order to revitalize a local park, the city recently waived the annual permit fee in 2018 for professionals wishing to offer services in a specific park as a part of a transformation and activation of that particular space.
ACE has developed a set of best practice guidelines for developing such policies as well as several other valuable resource materials. You can find them here. Our advocacy team is available to help if you are interested in working with your city to develop a shared use for professionally led physical activity policy.
There are many policies that can be implemented in the workplace to encourage employees to be more active throughout the day. One of the simplest yet effective (and free!) policies is to promote walking meetings as a viable alternative to sit-down meetings. The benefits extend beyond just getting in more steps. They can also facilitate a deeper and more meaningful level of conversation and can sometimes be the perfect setting for tackling difficult discussions. ACE has developed a walking toolkit that offers valuable resources that can be utilized with workplace walking policies. You can find it at acefitness.org/walkthisway.
Another consideration is to add recess to the day. That’s right—a recess policy! Once or twice a week, choose a 10-15-minute period dedicated to allowing employees to take a movement break. This can be structured or unstructured (someone leading stretches, people taking a walk, ping pong, instant dance jam, etc.) as long as individuals are moving. This can boost employee morale and build a collaborative culture as well as afford employees the opportunity to interact on a different level.