Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Physical Inactivity- A Growing Crisis

This is my first blog.  What I’ll try to do is share thoughts that might be useful in furthering my goal of getting people more active, thus healthier and happier.  I want to start with the big picture as I see it.  Most Americans are very inactive, and the rest of the world is trying to catch up with us.  Based on accelerometer monitoring in the NHANES study, fewer than 10% of teenagers and 5% of adults meet physical activity guidelines.  The real number is probably higher because accelerometers miss some activities, but I’m sure it is closer to the truth than surveys.  If 95% of adults smoked, we would consider it a health crisis, but that’s about where we are with physical inactivity.  We should consider it a crisis.

The epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes in adults and children are indications that low activity levels, along with disastrous eating habits, are the biggest health challenges of our time.  I suggest you check out  The basic idea is that 3 behaviors—smoking, inactivity, poor diet—are the main causes of four diseases—heart disease, cancers, lung disease, diabetes—that account for 50% of deaths worldwide.  Physical inactivity is one of the big three, so we need to be serious about improving the situation.

I want to end on a positive note.  With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as several health organizations, a National Plan for Physical Activity is being developed.  Having a plan does not ensure we will be successful, but not having a plan is a good way to guarantee continued failure.  There are opportunities to have input into the development of The Plan, and it is essential that every person who believes physical activity is essential for health is directly involved in the implementation of plan.  As a first step, visit

Jim Sallis 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Unhealthy Irony

While the “Next Great Depression” has school physical education (PE) budgets down on the canvas listening to the eight count, USA Today (March 11, 2009) publishes an article titled, “21% of Americans Scramble to Cover Medical, Drug Bills.

It continues on page 5 with a headline that reads, “The biggest problem the country has is the cost of health care.”  Jim Clifton, Gallup’s CEO and chief scientist for well-being and workplace management says,

“It’s a lot bigger problem than war and a bigger problem than the current (economic) meltdown because there are no fixes to it on the horizon right now.”

Well, I have a suggestion:  Support the concept of quality, daily PE for every child grades K-12 instructed by credentialed, well-trained specialists. 

CDC summarized the research and strongly recommends PE as an effective way to promote children’s health.  The data show that highly active PE classes (like SPARK) help children move more now and hopefully, that behavior continues into the future.  Simply stated, physical education IS preventive medicine.  Let’s contribute to reducing the cost of health care by ensuring the next generation of adults is ill less frequently than the current one.   

How to do that?  I believe our challenge has been in formulating a clear message around physical education’s preventative assets and building an effective marketing campaign (simple and clear) that can be sustained.  Verb (funded by the CDC) began a media blitz years ago and data show they were making some progress -- until their funding stream dried up.  The PEP grants (Physical Education for Progress) are federal dollars that have been generously supporting PE and PA programs (but for only 50-75 winners nationally) for the past 6 years.  These dollars remain precarious year to year. 

Therefore, I call upon our national organizations and friends of SPARK, including AAHPERD and their state affiliates, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, American Heart and Cancer Associations, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and all others who have a stake in public health, to work together and formulate a compelling message that can be broadcast via various media (websites, podcasts, webinars, presentations, television, radio, more) and organize behind a common theme- physical education is prevention – and a proven solution to reducing health care costs. 

Speaking for SPARK, we are willing to contribute time and staff to this cause.  Who will join us?  Share you thoughts online and lets start the movement (pun intended) here.

-Paul Rosengard

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Man's Best Friend (And Personal Trainer)

YOUR blog contributors, Dr. Jim Sallis, Dr. Thom McKenzie and Mr. Paul Rosengard (YOURS TRULY) have been conducting SPARK research and disseminating those findings worldwide (with the help of MANY of our friends) since 1989. 

In the weeks and months to come, we hope to share stories of what we've learned, people we've met, and how our work-life experiences have shaped the thoughts we have today. Our observations will cover a variety of public health topics: Childhood obesity, physical activity promotion, coordinated school health, healthy eating, best practices and resources, the latest research, behavior and environmental change, and much more. 

We'll tag team this task and have a different contributor each week. Please plan to join us every Wednesday when a new blog is posted!

Man's Best Friend (And Personal Trainer)
Wendy (my much better half who you met in previous entries) and I added Scout, a labradoodle puppy, to our family last June.  Since she's a 3rd grade teacher (Wendy, not Scout) we wanted to get a puppy at the beginning of summer knowing there would be many lessons to learn (Scout, not us -- at least that's what we thought...)  and the time to learn them. 
We had never raised a puppy together before, so Scout was a very new adventure.  Sure, I have stories to tell about crate training, housebreaking (the wet and smelly housebreaking and the other kind Scout tries from time to time) and socialization (or lack thereof) with other people and dogs, but since I'm a physical educator, let's look at quality of Scout's that I'm particularly found of.  The girl is a  4-legged  exercise machine.
Now MY activity regimen was set before Scout's arrival -- running and lifting weights on alternate days. But Scout has changed Wendy's life for the better.  Wendy comes home for work and takes Scout for a walk every day, 5 days a week.  She didn't use to do this before, in fact, Wendy was your classic weekend exerciser.  Scout is her motivation and together, they are quite a pair.  Wendy feels better, is less stressed, sleeps well, and really has a better quality of life because of Scout and their daily constitution.  Yea Scout!  Yea Wendy!
A friend gave us a very sweet book called, Puppy MIracles that provides the following "advice" from a very perceptive puppy (the author is anonymous):
  1. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them
  2. Run, romp, and play daily
  3. Never pass up an opportunity to go for a joyride
  4. Allow the experience of fresh air and wind in your face to be pure ecstasy
  5. Thrive on attention and let people touch you
  6. On warm days, stop to lie on your back in the grass
  7. When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body
  8. No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout.  Run right back and make friends.
  9. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.  Stop when you've had enough.
  10. Be loyal
Scout is 10 months old now.  These are lessons that Scout teaches/reinforces with us often.  We love her and are grateful she's in our lives, enriching them everyday.  She's right by my feet as I type this note, probably dreaming about her next run on the trail...  
Questions:  Does anyone have a "Dog as exercise machine story" you'd like to share?  Besides critters, has there been any other influencers that have gotten you off the couch and into a consistent movement regimen?
We'd like to hear from YOU.