The National Physical Activity Plan

Children exercising in fitness class
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What if you could take a pill that would do all of the following: both treat and prevent obesity, prevent cardiovascular disease, improve mobility, improve mood, provide stress relief, improve overall quality of life, prevent diabetes, improve healthy longevity, prevent dementia, and even prevent sudden cardiac death? Wouldn’t you take it? Well, that magic pill is called exercise, and getting moderate exercise on a regular basis works all of the above wonders and more.

So how do you go about setting a physical activity plan for an entire nation? This is the task that one not-for-profit organization has undertaken.

The National Physical Activity Plan

Published by the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance, a not-for-profit organization, the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) is free for public download and outlines a vision for physical activity in the United States.

This vision, as stated in the NPAP, is that “one day, all Americans will be physically active and they will live, work, and play in environments that facilitate regular physical activity.”

The NPAP explores many various aspects of physical activity at different levels, including policy-making, programs, and collaborations between the private and public sectors.

Focus on Public Health

The NPAP calls for adequate funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health departments to local health departments in order to “create and implement initiatives that promote physical activity.”

The NPAP also calls for expanding training for health care practitioners and related healthcare professionals, such as through a “Physical Activity and Public Health Course.” This focus would also extend to increasing the number of Master of Public Health (MPH) programs that provide training specifically on physical activity and how to promote more physical activity throughout communities and among individuals.

Physical Activity as a Vital Sign

When you go to the doctor, your vital signs, such as blood pressure and pulse, will be taken and recorded. The NPAP encourages physicians and other healthcare professionals to think of physical activity as a “patient vital sign that all health care providers assess and discuss with their patients.”

The NPAP encourages healthcare professionals to think of a sedentary lifestyle as a “treatable and preventable condition with profound health implications.” Thinking in this manner may prompt healthcare professionals to spend more time in promoting physical activity and counseling patients on ways to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.

Physical Activity in Schools

The NPAP calls for a return to physical education for children and adolescents in school, and to also “ensure that early childhood education settings for children ages 0 to 5 years promote and facilitate physical activity.”

For college students (where the “freshman 15” is legendary in terms of sudden weight gain), the NPAP encourages institutions of higher learning to “provide access to physical activity opportunities, including physical activity courses, robust club and intramural programs, and adequate physical activity and recreation facilities.”

The above touches upon just a minor fraction of the wealth of information contained in the NPAP. To read the document in its entirety, go to


Chiuve SE, Fung TT, Rexrode KM, Spiegelman D, et al. Adherence to a low-risk, healthy lifestyle and risk of sudden cardiac death among women. JAMA 2011; 306:62-69.

National Physical Activity Plan. Published by the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance and accessed online at

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