Making Gains on the National Physical Activity Plan


The National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) will have reached success when the vast majority of Americans regularly meet or surpass the Physical Activity Guidelines. The NPAP has over 250 evidence-based recommendations for changes in the policies and systems that guide the environments in which we live, work, learn, play, and commute. It’s a roadmap that, if followed, will lead to a more physically active nation. It’s the “if followed” part, however, that poses the greatest challenge. But fortunately, evidence is beginning to emerge that the NPAP is being followed.

There’s no question that policy changes at the national/federal level (e.g. enacting the FIT Kids Act, requiring school accountability for the quality and quantity of physical education and physical activity programs) can impact policies and programs at the local level. Through its relationship with the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA), the NPAP is working to create change at the national level. However, NPAP’s success will also come as the result of state and local efforts, through which the NPAP is used as a roadmap for states and municipalities.

In the last year, two examples have emerged for how the NPAP has been used to develop state and local level physical activity plans.

Last year, the state of West Virginia and the city of San Antonio, Texas released their state and city physical activity plans, respectively. In both cases the NPAP’s eight societal sectors provided the framework for each plan’s content. The strategies and tactics from the NPAP’s sectors were either copied directly, if applicable, or modified to meet the state and local needs. Or, in cases where the specific needs of the state or municipality were not directly addressed, new strategies or tactics were included. In addition, the process employed by the NPAP to develop and launch the national plan was adopted to develop the state and local plans.

It may be decades before the proverbial fruits of our labor are realized, where incidence and prevalence of non-communicable disease are substantially decreased because most Americans are sufficiently physically active. However, important progress is being made at the state and local level, and development of state and local physical activity plans is an example of that progress.

Do you have examples of progress being made in your town, city, or state?