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Physical Activity Guidelines

Section 3: Messages That Promote the Guidelines

Our goal for the Guidelines outreach is to communicate a clear, consistent message that will encourage and inspire Americans to be more active. The main message we are conveying is to ask Americans to "Be Active Your Way." This message communicates that people have choices and can design their own way of meeting the Guidelines.

We have conducted focus group research to determine successful messages that promote the Guidelines. Our focus group research indicates that the target population is most responsive to four simple message themes:

  • Benefits
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social support
  • Ways to fit physical activity into daily life

We recommend using messages that stress the benefits of regular physical activity, highlight self-efficacy, promote social support and nearby resources, and suggest simple ways to fit physical activity into daily life. In addition, we encourage you to regularly use the tagline for the Guidelines: "Be Active, Healthy, and Happy!"

Following are sample talking points that your organization can incorporate as you promote the Guidelines. We encourage you to weave them into whatever communication tools your organization uses—for example, flyers, newsletters, e-mails, and advertisements. These talking points are designed to speak to a wide variety of audiences, from the media to members of your community.

Encourage and inspire Americans to be more active.

Benefits

  • All Americans should engage in regular physical activity to improve overall health and to reduce risk of many health problems.
  • Some physical activity is better than none. The more you do, the more you gain.
  • Be Active, Healthy, and Happy!

Regular physical activity reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes. For most health outcomes, additional benefits occur as the amount of physical activity increases. For adults, examples of these benefits include:

  • Lower risk of early death
  • Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and several associated risk factors
  • Weight loss and prevention of weight gain
  • Lower risk of certain cancers (including colon and breast cancer)
  • Improved bone health
  • Reduced depression

Encourage adults to personalize the benefits of regular physical activity. Other reasons people may be active include:

  • Improving personal appearance
  • Having fun and enjoying the outdoors
  • Serving as a good role model for children
  • Enjoying time with family and friends
  • Enhancing fitness for sports
  • Retaining one's ability to live independently

Self-Efficacy

  • Physical activity—who says it has to be hard?
  • "If I can do it, you can too."

Self-efficacy refers to the belief or confidence in one's ability to improve behavior, in this case to increase physical activity. It is important not only to provide adults with the key guidelines but to help them take action. An important part of the Guidelines is to encourage adults who are currently inactive to start incorporating physical activity into their daily lives slowly. They can then gradually increase physical activity over a period of weeks to months to meet the Guidelines. Setting small goals and meeting those goals can improve self-efficacy and ultimately result in higher levels of physical activity.

For example: An inactive person could start with a walking program consisting of 5 minutes of slow walking several times each day, 5 to 6 days a week. The length of time walking and the walking speed could slowly be increased until the Guidelines are reached several weeks later.

Social Support

  • "It's more fun to walk, bike, or run with a friend."
  • There are many people and organizations near you that offer opportunities and support to help you be more active.

During our focus groups, many adults recognized the social aspects of engaging in physical activity. Promote social support and socialization as ways to help motivate adults to be more active. We encourage you to call on more physically active adults to serve as role models, mentors, and buddies to less active adults.

"Show us examples of physical activities that are fun and enjoyable."
—Focus group participant

Ways To Fit Physical Activity Into Your Life

  • "Be Active Your Way."
  • Who says physical activity has to be hard?

In our focus groups, adults emphasized the importance of being provided with many examples of each type of physical activity. Consider offering tips. People want to find ways to build physical activity into their lives. Focus group participants asked that they be provided examples of physical activities that were fun and enjoyable. Provide several examples as a way to allow individuals to choose activities that fit into their lifestyles and seem realistic for them. According to our focus group research, it is also important to emphasize that the Guidelines can be met by doing 10- to 15-minute bouts of physical activity instead of doing it all at once. Finally, it is important to make physical activity fun and enjoyable.

"I start out doing 10 to 15 minutes at a time."

Be a Resource

For example: [name of your organization] is a participating local Supporter of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. We are available to give you the support and practical suggestions you need to get started on increasing your physical activity.

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