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Experts Applaud Physical Activity Guidelines Bill

by Craig Odar | Aug 01, 2011
ACSM led call for creation of federal guidelines in 2006; members served on scientific writing team

INDIANAPOLIS — As debate continues over health system reform, a proposal with vast preventive power is drawing widespread support. Scientists, physicians, public health experts and others have rallied in favor of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Act of 2009. The measure (S. 1810 in the Senate and H.R. 3851 in the House), provides that the Department of Health and Human Services update federal physical activity guidelines at least every five years.

The bill’s sponsors reflect bipartisan support for healthy lifestyles as preventive medicine: Reps. Bart Gordon (D-TN), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Ron Kind (D-WI) and Zach Wamp (R-TN); Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sam Brownback (R-KS).

“The first federal guidelines for physical activity, released in October 2008, were a big step forward,” said James Pivarnik, Ph.D., FACSM, president of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). “The American public would be well served by guidelines that are updated regularly, like federal guidelines for nutrition, based on the latest scientific and medical information.”

ACSM led the call for federal physical activity guidelines, and a number of its members lent their expertise to the process of developing them. In 2006, ACSM convened a broad coalition of more than 40 organizations, resulting in six key calls to action – including the creation of regular updates to federal physical activity guidelines. Another recommendation, a National Physical Activity Plan, is under development. Many organizations involved in the 2006 policy roundtable are among those who have endorsed the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Act (click here for list).

Helping Americans of all ages and health status increase their level of physical activity can do much to cut health care costs, improve individual quality of life and boost productivity, according to research by ACSM experts and others. Physical activity and exercise have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and conditions including overweight and obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and others. Recent research shows:

Seventy-five percent of every dollar spent on health care goes toward treatment of chronic diseases.

Estimates project that, by 2010, 20 percent of children in the U.S. will be obese.

52 percent of U.S. adults do not meet minimum recommendations for physical activity. Only 35.8 percent of high school students are physically active 60 minutes or more, five days per week; just 33 percent attend physical education classes daily.

Those living in poverty, people of color, people with disabilities, and rural residents face increased obstacles to engaging in safe physical activity and suffer significant disparities in their overall health status.

“Given the low cost of exercise—as inexpensive as a pair of walking shoes—and its manifest health benefits, we need to do all we can to help people engage in appropriate types and amounts of physical activity,” said ACSM’s Pivarnik. “I hope that, while Congress wrestles with health reform legislation, they will pass the guidelines act with its potential for a huge payoff in terms of preventive health care and of dollars saved.”

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The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national, and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

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