Active Lifestyle. Part 1

Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:25
Posted in category Health

Many health club professionals continue to use the same messages as they have for decades to promote physical activity to the public. But as the 1996 Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health shows, these messages aren’t working. How, then, can health clubs develop more appropriate promotional messages to encourage sedentary people to engage in physical activity? Connecting the Surgeon General’s Report with theoretical frameworks may help people who are responsible for marketing active lifestyles to better understand the complexity of changing sedentary behavior and to develop more effective strategies to encourage physical activity.

Defining the problem

Past efforts. In the 1996 Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, Donna Shalala (the Secretary of Health and Human Services) provided a historical overview of the major promotional efforts made by the U.S. government to increase physical activity. According to the report, a national governmental effort in the 1950s encouraged young Americans to be physically active. In the 1970s, another national effort attempted to educate Americans about the cardiovascular benefits of vigorous activity. In the 1980s and 1990s, research began to suggest important links between a physically active lifestyle and good health.

During this time, the non-profit and for-profit sectors were undertaking their own campaigns. For example, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the International Dance and Exercise Association now (IDEA, the Health and Fitness Source), and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PSPFS) all worked to stimulate increased participation in sports and exercise.17,5,1,4,12 Thousands of sporting goods companies, such as Rollerblade, have also pursued aggressive marketing programs to promote the long-term growth of specific sports.16

The problem. A mere handful of active-lifestyle promotional efforts were undertaken. Yet, despite these efforts, the 1996 Surgeon General’s Report indicates that 60 percent of Americans are not regularly active. “Worse yet,” the report states, “25 percent of Americans are not active at all. For young people — the future of our country — physical activity declines dramatically during adolescence. These are dangerous trends. We need to turn them around quickly, for the health of our citizens and our country.”

So, what’s going on? After all of these promotional efforts, why do people not seem to care about being physically active? Did these organizations have ineffective marketing strategists? Did the companies not understand their product: the active lifestyle itself? Is active lifestyle behavior such a complex phenomenon that most people fail to understand it? Or, are researchers doing an inadequate job of sharing active-lifestyle marketing research and strategies to active-lifestyle providers and promoters?

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