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Tom is the Senior Manager of Public Policy for IHRSA, a nonprofit trade/advocacy group for fitness centers. As IHRSA’s Washington staff member, Tom coordinates IHRSA’s outreach to leading organizations and government agencies - such as HHS and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, Exercise is Medicine, the Campaign to End Obesity, the National Physical Activity Plan and others - to highlight the importance of physical activity to America’s health. In 2009 and beyond, Tom looks forward to advancing IHRSA’s support for policies and programs that increase the number of physically active Americans.
We’ve written previously about the importance of making the healthy choice, not only the easy choice, but also the happy choice. This approach emphasizes the role that supportive environments can play in inducing healthy behaviors. We’ve also addressed the impact of social circles and support networks.
Each one of those posts discussed external factors that may influence a person’s decision to pursue a healthier and more active lifestyle.
But true behavior change requires something internal; a motivation strong enough to persevere.
In the depths of the Great Depression, Napoleon Hill published the business classic, “Think and Grow Rich,” which still consistently ranks as one of the greatest self-help/business books.
It It is a book, largely, about self-empowerment. It asserts that circumstance can be overcome by focus and determination. Despite having been published more than 75 years ago, there is a joyful, almost celebratory message that seems perfectly in place alongside more modern texts about the self-empowering forces of the web-based economy.
The book offers 13 principles of success based on his observations of 40 wealthy individuals, Sure, external forces matter, a lot, but humans are capable of achieving great heights, regardless of environment. The “starting point of all achievement,” according to Hill, is desire.
Hill offers 6 practical steps for turning desire into riches. I think they provide an excellent blueprint for any type of endeavor. Here are those 6 practical steps. Lightly edited, with the word “money” replaced with the words “physical activity.”
1. Fix in your mind the exact amount of physical activity you desire.
2. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for physical activity you desire (there is no such reality as "something for nothing.")
3. Establish a definite date when you intend to achieve the physical activity level you desire.
4. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once - whether you are ready or not - to put this plan into action.
5. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of physical activity you intend to pursue, name the time limit for achieving the amount, state what you intend to give in return for the amount of physical activity, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
6. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning.
What do you think? Would these six steps help folks lead a healthier, more active life? What else would you suggest?
In coming months: What role can social networks play in developing an individual’s desire for a healthier, more active life?
And, lastly, I would be remiss if I did not note that the wise and successful Napoleon Hill also listed “lack of proper physical exercise” in his section about the major causes of failure…
Tags: physical activity, social network
Active Advice | Barriers
In a recent post, we discussed the importance of making the healthy choice, not just the “easy choice,” but also the happy choice. This week, we’ll touch on the power of making the healthy place, the easy and happy place.
It’s fair to say that a neighborhood fitness center serves a very different purpose than a neighborhood tavern. The former provides services to improve one’s physical health, while the latter provides services that are generally, shall we say, counter to good physical health. But despite their divergent societal purposes, I think that successful fitness centers share many characteristics with successful taverns.
They make people feel welcome. They are inclusive. And they provide a sense of belonging.
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
- Theme Song, Cheers (TV Show)
“We want to be the Cheers of fitness,” says Dave Tuthill, President & CEO of Hearthstone Health & Fitness in Easton, MD, which just celebrated a wildly successful first year of operation.
But, there are no adult beverages served at Hearthstone. In fact, they only offer carefully vetted healthy food and drinks. Yet, the essence of what made a place like Cheers – the idealized neighborhood tavern featured in the 80s sitcom of the same name – so desirable is very much evident at Hearthstone.
It starts the moment a patron walks through the door. Front desk personnel warmly greet each visitor, nearly always by first name, and often with a handshake. And eye contact, that ancient old art lost in a tidal wave of handheld devices and texting, is a given.
Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot
- Theme Song, Cheers
Amidst the daily, modern strains of stress and endless connectivity, sedentary behavior is often the norm, which only exacerbates the impact of stress. Hearthstone was conceived as an oasis from the bustle; not like a spa, but more like an impeccably clean living room (complete with large stone hearth fireplace, naturally) filled with new fitness equipment. The design and décor suggest stylish comfort and the staff work hard to create a “home away from home” environment.
You wanna be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
To be sure, the members of Hearthstone run the gamut from uber-fit to struggling with obesity, so the troubles are not quite all the same in a purely physiological sense. But there is a shared belief that pursuing a healthy, physically active life can be challenging, and that the welcoming and supportive environment of Hearthstone helps overcome that challenge. Judgments are not allowed at Hearthstone, only support.
Operating a facility like Hearthstone is undoubtedly complex and nuanced, but I think I can summarize the approach quite simply:
1) Make sure that members know how much they are valued and supported
2) Do lots of listening to better understand the goals/needs/concerns of members; and
3) Keep the place really clean.
That’s it in a nutshell. Sounds like a pretty great tavern, eh?
What are some other lessons that a fitness center might learn from a tavern?
Tags: physical activity, fitness center, recreation facility, exercise, fitness
Building Healthy Communities | Social Determinants
In March 2013, IHRSA awarded Radka Dopitova Willson with the “Julie Main Woman Leader Scholarship” for her work to develop the Back To Life program for cancer patients and survivors.
At the award ceremony, Radka had a wonderful message for the fitness community:
I would like to challenge all of you in our health and fitness industry to offer a helping hand to cancer survivors. Tell them that there is life after cancer. Tell them that they’re worth it. Tell them that their scars are just signs of their resilience and strength. And, most importantly, tell them that you will support them to make sure that everything is going to be alright.
From her home base at the World Bank Group in Washington, DC, Radka offers the “Back to Life” class twice each week at no cost to World Bank Group employees.
The six-week “Back to Life” program has three goals:
1) Assist in creating a personalized fitness program.
2) Encourage a healthy lifestyle.
3) Accelerate recovery and return to a productive life.
As a cancer survivor herself, Radka has an intimate understanding of the challenges facing the class participants.
“I had troubles during transitioning period from a patient to a survivor,” she says. “The period after I was finished with my surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments was very difficult to navigate through as suddenly I was on my own and did not know how to transition into normal life. Very little is currently done to provide post-rehabilitation services addressing the restorative needs of cancer survivors.”
The feedback from participants has been overwhelming.
Every participant – 100% - indicated they would like to take the program again.
“Please keep this program going, we need it! Charge a price if needed,” said one participant. “The camaraderie, support, teamwork, and encouragement of one another are something that cannot be paid in dollars. This was an awesome idea to get us together. It changed my life. Thank you.”
“Beautiful holistic program,” said another participant. “A must for cancer patients and survivors. Cannot say how much I wish to continue this program. Please arrange for follow up courses for our group!”
The health care system is expanding in many ways: more services, greater access, and evermore treatment options.
And at the frontier of this rapidly expanding system are sophisticated fitness facilities capable of providing disease-specific, exercise-based programming.
I think programs like “Back To Life” will ultimately become part of the core of what we expect from community-minded fitness facilities. What do you think? What are some other examples of disease- or condition-specific programming occurring at fitness facilities?
Tags: exercise is medicine, creative programming, scholarship, back to life
Creative programming | Exercise is Medicine | Physical Activity and Employers
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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