YMCA Supports National Physical Activity Plan

New plan reinforces the work that YMCAs across the country are doing to promote healthier communities and support healthy behavior for all

CHICAGO, IL, May 3, 2010—YMCA of the USA, the national resource office for the nation’s 2,687 Ys, has joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association, the American College of Sports Medicine and numerous other organizations to support The National Physical Activity Plan, a sweeping initiative to improve public health. The Plan, which officially launches today, will aim to motivate people in every community to become and stay physically active, and to remove the barriers that may stand in their way.

Leaders in public health, transportation, education, business and other fields announced the Plan today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The product of a public/private partnership, the Plan calls for policy, environmental and cultural changes to help all Americans enjoy the health benefits of physical activity. The vision is that all Americans are physically active and live, work, and play in environments that facilitate regular physical activity. The Plan is an ongoing collaboration of scores of nonprofit organizations, corporations and public agencies serving as partners, affiliates and sponsors.

“Ys are committed to improving our nation’s health and well-being,” said Neil Nicoll, President and CEO of YMCA of the USA. “That’s why we’re proud to support the National Physical Activity Plan. It’s time to make healthy living a priority in every community and elevate the fight against chronic disease. Together, we can empower people to develop and maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.”

The measures and recommendations of the Plan complements the work Ys are doing in their communities to help families and children become more physically active and make healthier decisions. Ys – working side-by-side with schools, policy makers, community organizations and parents – are creating innovative solutions that help all who are facing the health crisis.

The Y is committed to providing support to families and children who desire to be more physically active but have the most difficulty in making lifestyle changes. Through programs such as YMCA Healthy Family Home, Ys are equipping families with tools and resources to make and sustain healthy decisions for the whole family. Through the YMCA’s Healthier Communities Initiatives, Ys across the country are working with community leaders to influence policy and systems changes to increase physical activity and safe places to play, improve access to healthy foods, and incorporate more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in school lunches.

Experts involved with the Plan said the initiative goes well beyond just telling people to exercise. “We are encouraging a new way of thinking about lifestyle, activity, mobility and general physical fitness,” said Russell Pate, Ph.D., chair of the National Physical Activity Plan. “It’s well established that physical activity brings manifold health benefits, but we need to change people’s behavior. The Plan provides a roadmap for change, addressing everything from the education of health professionals to zoning laws, school policies and workplace wellness programs.”

The Y was an early advocate for the creation of the Plan and has been closely involved with the development of the Plan’s recommendations. If implemented, its measures could significantly improve public health, cut health care costs, and reduce health disparities. 

The Plan presents a call to action with specific strategies for each sector, for example:

  • Education: Develop and implement policies requiring school accountability for quality and quantity of physical education and physical activity
  • Health Care: Make physical activity a patient “vital sign” that all health care providers assess and discuss with patients
  • Transportation/Planning: Local, state, and federal agencies will use routine performance measures and set benchmarks for active travel (walking, biking, public transit)
  • Recreation: Enhance the existing parks and recreation infrastructure with effective policy and environmental changes to promote physical activity
  • Business/Industry: Identify and disseminate best practice models for physical activity in the work place

Following the launch, the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity will facilitate implementation, working with the organizations designated to coordinate teams focused on each of the eight sectors. YMCA of the USA and other partner organizations will help to implement the plan at the national, regional and grassroots levels. The partner organizations will collectively promote public policy, track results and launch a cause-related marketing campaign to engage all audiences.

Representatives from the Y will continue to provide leadership to task forces and committees as the Plan is implemented in communities throughout the nation. The Y’s Healthier Communities initiatives will continue to expand to more communities, convening local leaders and policy makers, to make the needed policy and environmental changes to create healthier communities. The Y will continue to be a place where all are welcomed and supported in making and sustaining physical activity and lifestyle choices to achieve healthy spirit, mind and body.

The Plan Process
Pate led a process that identified strategies and tactics for eight key areas of society that have a direct impact on the physical activity levels and health of people in the United States. Under the guidance of a 23-member Coordinating Committee, working groups collaborated through e-mail and teleconferences. The eight sectors are:

  • Business & Industry
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Mass Media
  • Parks, Recreation, Fitness & Sports
  • Public Health
  • Transportation, Urban Design & Community Planning
  • Volunteer & Non-Profit Organizations

The plan was originally called for during a multi-organizational roundtable in 2006 convened by the American College of Sports Medicine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Prevention Research Center at the University of South Carolina provided the organizational infrastructure for the Plan. Leaders explained that making a compelling and urgent case for increasing physical activity in the American population entails:

  • Providing a clear roadmap increasing Americans’ physical activity in both the short-term and long-term
  • Developing strategies for increasing physical activity in all sectors of society and addressing disparities
  • Creating a social movement to sustain interest and involvement
  • Developing new strategies for promoting physical activity
  • Monitoring progress to assess achievements in increasing physical activity

At least 12 states and a number of other countries have enacted physical activity plans, establishing best practices for making physical activity a routine part of daily life. For instance, active transportation is more prominent in some European countries as compared to the United States. Information about the U.S. Plan is available online at

About YMCA of the USA
YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the nation's 2,687 YMCAs, which serve 21 million people each year, including more than 9 million children under the age of 18. YMCAs respond to critical social needs by drawing on their collective strength as one of America's largest not-for-profit community service organizations. Through a variety of programs and services focused on the holistic development of children and youth, family strengthening, and health and well-being for all, YMCAs unite men, women and children of all ages, faiths, backgrounds, abilities and income levels. From urban areas to small towns, YMCAs have proudly served America's communities for nearly 160 years by building healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Visit to find your local YMCA.

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Kelly Kennai

Dan Henkel

Monday, May 3, 2010

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The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.