The country and the fitness industry must stop hitting that restart button every year, repeating the same inadequate actions.
When you woke up on New Year's Day earlier this month, did you want to hit the "restart" button? Did you feel like 2012 had been filled with events and decisions you wanted to forget? Unfortunately, no restart button exists, so we must live with our decisions and actions—or inaction.
Many people who have walked into your health club this month are hitting the restart button on their plans to become healthier. Some of them hit that restart button every year. And the country's obesity epidemic shows us that too many people have hit the restart button too many times. Some people have never even hit the start button.
A recent study by the United Health Foundation found that due to medical advances, Americans are living longer despite being unhealthier. Nearly 28 percent of the population is obese, and more than 26 percent get no exercise, resulting in an increasing prevalence of health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease.
The United Health Foundation is funding a new learning collaborative with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials that will identify states that have improved in key health measures and study best practices that contribute to their successes. These lessons will then be shared with other states. This collaboration could help create a cohesive effort to slow and possibly reverse this epidemic.
Another study indicates that concerted efforts help.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a report in September that noted that obesity rates for children in New York City and Philadelphia had declined (5.5 percent and 4.7 percent decreases, respectively), as had rates for children in California (1.1 percent decrease) and Mississippi (13.3 percent decrease).
The foundation noted that part of the reason for the decreases has been the comprehensive action of these cities and states to address the childhood obesity epidemic. These entities have taken specific actions that, done separately, might have done nothing, but done en masse, have created change.
The American Council on Exercise's trends to watch survey for 2013 included the recognition by fitness professionals that they must create a more comprehensive approach to fighting obesity through focus on proper nutrition, regular physical activity, behavioral change and motivation rather than just exercise.
The next step is to help communities be more comprehensive in how to make changes that will lead to healthier citizens. You can do so by collaborating at industry conferences, industry roundtables and on social media to share best practices. On top of that, you can work with schools and local businesses to educate them about healthy living. You can speak at school board meetings about the need for nutrition and P.E. classes. You can work with industry lobbying groups to support legislation that will help the effort.
The country and the fitness industry must stop hitting that restart button every year, repeating the same inadequate actions. We must hit the start button on collaboration if we have any hope of moving the nation toward its health goals.