Faculty and alumna contribute to first National Physical Activity Plan

Two members of the Penn State faculty and one alumna have been selected to assist with the development of the first U.S. National Physical Activity Plan. Andrew J. Mowen, associate professor of recreation, park, and tourism management (RPTM); Birgitta Baker, assistant professor of kinesiology at Louisiana State University and graduate of the RPTM doctoral program; and Allison Topper, senior instructor in public health sciences and pediatrics in the Penn State College of Medicine will provide background research that will inform the plan.

The purpose of the plan is to “help Americans become physically active every day,” according to a press release issued by the National Physical Activity Plan committee. To do this, the plan will “identify the steps that must be taken by local, state, and federal governments along with communities, corporations, and schools, to ensure that children and adults can and will engage in physical activity consistent with the most recent guidelines.”

The physical activity plan draws upon a variety of important organizations for support and leadership, including the University of South Carolina (who is spearheading the project); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance; the AARP; the American Cancer Society; Active Living Research; the American College of Sports Medicine; the American Heart Association; and the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity.

Mowen and Baker provided background research for one of eight sectors represented by this plan: Parks, Recreation, Fitness, and Sports. Mowen and Baker presented a summary of their findings at the National Physical Activity Plan Conference on July 1 and 2. Their white paper has been submitted to a special supplement issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

“I feel honored to be invited to pull together a variety of sector-specific ideas and recommendations for increasing physical activity within the United States,” said Mowen. “I’m glad to work with people from other allied fields on this project, because an interdisciplinary approach is critical to the plan’s success.”

Mowen and Baker’s recommendations, which were debated and discussed during the National Physical Activity Plan Conference, were organized into several categories including place, promotion, partnership, programming, people, and policy recommendations.

“You can partake in many different leisure activities that are intrinsically enjoyable and will help keep you physically active,” said Mowen. “Developing, maintaining, and modernizing park, recreation, sport, and fitness amenities should be viewed as a public health imperative. This includes improving support features such as connector trails, restrooms, and drinking fountains, and creating better access to these facilities. We also think that these facilities need to be promoted more, by way of national and local marketing campaigns that can truly reach and impact those who are less active. We think that there should be an increase in the types of programs available to high-risk populations like children, persons with disabilities, older adults, minority citizens, and low-income families, and that those programs include social support and leadership to increase participation. Lastly, we feel that land use and zoning policies should promote the protection and reclamation of green spaces like parks and trails for physical activity.”

Also playing a significant role in the plan is Topper, who will contribute as a plan writer for the education sector. Other sectors from which experts are contributing to the plan include Public Health; Transportation, Urban Design, and Community Planning; Mass Media; Health Care; Business and Industry; and Volunteer and Nonprofit Organizations.

Click here to learn more about the National Physical Activity Plan.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010