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NCPPA 's Profile


National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity, Inc.
United States

About Me:

NCPPA BloggerMelissa Merson is the Executive Director of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA). NCPPA is the leading force in the country promoting physical activity and fitness initiatives. We are a diverse blend of associations, health organizations, and private corporations advocating for policies that encourage Americans of all ages to become more physically active. Melissa has decades of experience as an innovative communications and government relations professional in Washington, DC. She also is involved in international sports governance for the Olympic sport of triathlon. Melissa is an accomplished triathlete and has competed in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. She is the founder and coach of the Arlington Triathlon Club, a school-based multi-sport training program for public school students. She has won numerous awards for innovative youth and sports development initiatives. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter bringing people interested in physical activity together all over the world.

Recent Posts by NCPPA

Implementing the National Physical Activity Plan

by NCPPA October 3, 2012

You may have read here before about the National Physical Activity Plan, but wonder how it can be put into action on a local or individual level.

The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) is a proud advocate for the plan, which is a comprehensive set of strategies, policies, practices and initiatives aimed at increasing physical activity in the national population. Our goal is to produce a measurable and progressive increase in the percentage of Americans who meet recommended guidelines for physical activity throughout their lifetimes. The results we are looking for include improved health and well-being; increased productivity; reduction of health disparities; and lowered rates of disease, disability, and premature death attributable to sedentary lifestyles.

To carry out our work for the National Physical Activity Plan, NCPPA has built a network of eight industry sector teams, including business/industry, education, health care, parks and recreation, public health, and transportation. These teams of individuals work together to develop strategies and tactics aimed at getting people moving.

Mission: Readiness

So how do the sector goals translate into specific actions and policies? One great example where the impetus for increasing physical activity has tremendous impact is the military. Mission: Readiness, an organization of over 200 retired generals, warns Congress that the tripling of childhood obesity rates over the past three decades means that one in four 17-24 year-olds in the United States is too overweight for military service. Only 22% of high school seniors have daily physical education, and many students in those classes still get little exercise. Mission: Readiness advocates for replacing unhealthy public school food and making physical education and activity part of the school day. Over a 10-year period, the number of states with 40% or more of young adults who were overweight or obese went from 2 to 43, the group said. This is not only a public health issue, but one of national security.

Mission: Readiness continues to pushing state and school districts to increase physical education so more children will be physically fit and, therefore, prepared for military service.

CEO Pledge on Physical Activity

Another example of the NPAP in action is the campaign launched by NCPPA's Business & Industry Sector called the CEO Pledge on Physical Activity. On September 24, 26 CEOs of corporations and organizations committed themselves to being physically active, and signed the pledge to provide their employees with opportunities to engage in physical activity. The pledge reads:

For the betterment of my company, our employees, their families, and our country, I pledge to improve employee health and wellness by providing opportunities and resources for physical activity before, during or after the workday, and to enhance my own health and wellness by engaging in regular physical activity.

"Research studies show that overall employee happiness and productivity are enhanced by daily exercise, especially when accessibility and support to exercise come from within the corporate environment," NCPPA President Laurie Whitsel told CEOs assembled at a Capitol Hill signing ceremony. The lack of physical activity is a leading contributor to the nation's obesity crisis, and work-related concerns often create hurdles to employee access to opportunities for physical activity."

Below: Three CEOs present their signed Pledge on Physical Activity certificates. From left to right: Dave Pickering, Preventure; Brian Biagioli, National Council on Strength & Fitness; and Scott Goudeseune, American Council on Exercise.

Below: Sue Liebenow of L&T Fitness signs the pledge.

"The CEO Pledge makes clear that business leaders have an influential role to play in addressing our country's health and health care crises," said Joe Moore, President and CEO of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, and one of the first to sign the pledge. "With most working adults spending roughly half their waking hours on the job on the days that they work, it is incumbent upon business and industry leaders to become part of the solution. By promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles within the workplace, CEOs help their company's bottom line, but they also help society."

These are just two examples of how the National Physical Activity Plan is being put into action around the country every day. Please friend NCPPA on Facebook for more information and updates on the plan. And please check out our CEO Pledge page on Facebook, as well.

How are you implementing the National Physical Activity Plan?

Engaging Fitness in the Community

by NCPPA June 7, 2012

Heading out to engage in physical activity often is easier for people when they can join with others in groups, and support and motivate each other. By engaging communities in physical activity, you can help people share knowledge about the benefits of physical activitiy, develop awareness about opportunities to be physically active, and overcome barriers and negative attitudes that may exist about exercise.

The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommends several initiatives that communities can adopt to successfully encourage and increase amounts of physical activity, in order to help manage and mitigate chronic health diseases, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Community access to opportunities for physical activity is extremely important. Building walking trails, pools, fields, and gyms help provide citizens with more opportunities to exercise. Reducing fees for facilities access and providing low or no-cost programming and coaching also helps eliminate barriers to exercise. Simply placing motivational signs by elevators and escalators can remind residents and office workers to use nearby stairs in order to improve health and promote weight management. Community-wide media campaigns through television, radio, and newspapers promote screenings and educational workshops at worksites, schools and other community locations. Social support interventions in the community - including buddy systems, group walks, and fitness classes - also help steer physical behavior in a positive direction while strengthening community bonds and friendships.

There are many cities throughout the country that are making enormous efforts to foster physical activity development and awareness in their communities. Residents are given tools to help attain active lifestyle goals through access to fitness equipment, trails, and online support groups. Here are three examples of communities engaging their citizens in fitness programs.

City of Trenton, MI: Trenton's Health and Wellness Coalition

Goal: Encourage group walks in neighborhoods

Walk your way to a healthy life! This is the theme for Walk Michigan, a free program for all ages that meets three times a week to walk along a scenic bike path. The group walk helps encourage residents to walk regularly by joining neighbors in strengthening community bonds. Walk Michigan is a year-long initiative that transitions the outdoors walks to indoors during the winter season. The coalition also offers a variety of reduced-price fitness classes at various centers, gyms, and schools.

Fall River, MA: Fall River Fitness Challenge

Goal: Encourage friendly competition and educate residents to increase physical activity

Open to residents of Fall River, this ongoing challenge allows participants to gain access to fitness programs and centers throughout the city for little or no cost. These programs and educational promotions h

elp them learn to eat well, exercise, lose weight, become fit, and prevent diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases. Not only do residents get to exercise in a fun, stress-free environment, but they are provided with tools to do this regularly, and have the chance to win prizes for their hard efforts.

San Antonio, TX: Mayor's Fitness Council

Goal: Deliver an online community platform that gives residents tools to help incorporate physical activity

In addition to county-wide fitness programs, Arlington created an open portal to promote local programs and maximize utilization of opportunities to engage in physical activity. The FitArlington portal maintains a comprehensive calendar of county events and provides incentives for exercising and for creating physical activity programming. The easy accessibility relies on the portal's online platform, which serves as an excellent resource tool, providing tips on exercise, places for everything fitness related, and fun events promoting physical aware

ness. The portal supports four main initiatives: Get Fit, Get Outdoors, Places to Stay, and Play a Sport. A list of physical activities, groups, and local events throughout Arlington County can be found through the portal, which also facilitates development of new programming by connecting coaches and program managers with county facilities and staff. 

Thanks to the help of local community efforts, residents in many places find it easier than ever to become physically active. Great community leaders in many locations have successfully transformed their communities into physical activity-friendly environments. Help your community get excited about physical activity by becoming an active and fit resident, and spreading the important message about how physical activity plays a critical role in bettering health!

What are some physical activity programs available to groups in your community?

Working Together for Policy Success

by NCPPA November 18, 2011

It's a wonderful time to be in the business of promoting physical activity. There aren't many issues in the public policy arena that enjoy such a broad consensus of support across political, social, and cultural lines. Everyone agrees that physical activity is good, regular physical activity is better, and a physically active lifestyle is best!

But it is a challenging time in Washington, DC and across the nation - with dwindling public health dollars, austere budgeting, "nanny state" push-back, and the need to accomplish more with fewer resources. That is why it is more important than ever that people, organizations, government agencies, industries, and others who are interested in promoting health and wellness must come together. We need to present consistent, unified messaging, coordinate our resources, and collaborate across various sectors to create healthier environments and policies that allow people to make healthy choices.

In our efforts to implement the National Physical Activity Plan, the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity has built a network of individuals working across eight different sectors - including education, public health, business/industry, health care, parks and recreation, and transportation - to implement the strategies and tactics laid out in this important road map. These strategies drive specific policies and programs aimed at getting people up on their feet and moving.

Business & Industry Sector

In the business and industry sector, we are working to identify, collect, and make available the best practices, models, and existing programs for physical activity in the workplace. The sector team has developed a CEO Pledge, urging corporate leaders to commit themselves and their companies to provide opportunities and access for their employees to be active before, during, and after the work day. These businesses will gain access to a valuable resource list to help shift their corporate cultures from sedentary to physically active work environments.

Education Sector

One of the education sector's strategies is to promote policies to provide access and opportunities for physical activity in after-school programming. The sector team conducted a survey to compile information on standards and guidelines for afterschool activity. They gathered data from 500 programs in 10 regions, and also looked at school districts with diverse demographic profiles. In fact, this year marked the first development and adoption of National Standards on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Afterschool Programs.

Health Sector

The health sector is working to make physical activity a "vital sign" that all health care providers assess and discuss with patients. The team is working to establish physical inactivity as a treatable and preventable condition with profound health implications. They are also developing policies to include physical activity in the education and training of all health care professionals.

The Federal government by nature of its broad reach can lead the cultural shift. The same folks who put Rosie the Riveter to work in the factories now need to help Rosie get off the couch and make the move to a physically active lifestyle. Physical activity needs to be inserted into the health policies of the entire government.

To reach the ultimate goal of creating a society of physically active children and adults, we all need to use a common voice when bringing our ideas and energy to the effort. There's something for everyone in the National Physical Activity Plan. What are you doing to help put the plan into action?


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