New Report on Exercise Envisions Better Physical Fitness Future Despite Discouraging Recent History

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Major reviews of the medical literature on exercise have documented the significant health benefits of physical fitness and health risks from the lack of it.

Major reviews of the medical literature by the US Surgeon General, the World Health Organization, and the Institute of Medicine have documented the health benefits of exercise and health risks of not exercising. A new report by The Consilience Group, LLC (http://www.theconsiliencegroup.com) reflects on these trends but gives strong reason for hope for a more physically active future.

Physical fitness is especially beneficial in preventing coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease, enhancing muscle quality, preventing muscular deterioration and reducing depression. Most Americans believe in being physically active, but a majority do not exercise enough. Why?

  •      Automobile transport, home automation and mechanization and information technology--have made leisure time physical fitness essential. Many Americans would like to walk or bicycle more, but distances and lack of sidewalks often make the automobile the only practical transport mode. Household appliances plus distaste for domestic chores that used to require muscle power have made chores less physically taxing, and information technology has eliminated much paid physical labor and is likely to eliminate more.
  • Many American children and adolescents do not exercise enough because physical education requirements are lax, they ride to school instead of walking or bicycling, they spend major amounts of time on television and the Internet, and competitive team sports exclude the less athletically talented.
  •      American adults, even parents of young children, have enough leisure time for physical activity into which they could fit the modest amounts of exercise recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for good health. Instead they devote major amounts of leisure time to television and the Internet.
  •      American children and adolescents often aren’t active enough in their leisure time because they spend a great deal of time with electronic media and lack opportunities for outdoor free play. Free play is a time children need for their physical and social development. Many parents deprive their children of free play by scheduling them in an endless round of organized activities.

The new report Physical Activity Trends: Business and Policy Implications, 2007 Edition, documents the discouraging news above but is optimistic that Americans will have a more physically active future. It is the third report by The Consilience Group, LLC, on the future of fitness and sports commissioned by SBRnet, a Princeton, New Jersey sports market research firm (http://www.sbrnet.com). The public can order the reports by calling Mr. Richard Lipsey, SBRnet President, at 609-896-1996, or Mr. Kenneth Harris, Consilience Group at 301-657-3731 or by emailing Mr. Harris.

Many trends are helping Americans exercise enough for good health. One is the increase in opportunities to participate in organized athletic events. For example, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society sponsors about 100 MS bike rides nationwide; about 100 thousand people participated in these rides in 2006. Another is the proliferation of recreational trails like the Capital Crescent Trail in greater Washington, DC, that give Americans car-free places for outdoor exercise. Third, changing laws, regulations, and societal norms are making physical activity more possible for more people. Sports and fitness has become a mainstream activity for women and girls. Women now are a majority of the participants in several sports including volleyball, swimming and softball and a large minority in camping, bicycle riding and canoeing.

The report envisions four scenarios for the future of exercise in America and concludes that a mix of its two favorable scenarios—the affluent, highly competitive Home Health Club and the very environmentally conscious Frolic in the Park—are the most likely future for at least the next decade for three reasons:

  • The momentum in favor of exercise built up by the 15 countertrends will be extremely difficult to reverse.
  • History shows that people will gradually adopt more healthful behaviors as they become convinced that change is in their interest.
  • While America's long-term economic problems could cause hard times if allowed to continue, enough of them will probably be solved to avoid hard times.

The report concludes with comprehensive strategy and trend monitoring recommendations for sports organizations based on the likelihood of the two favorable scenarios.

For more information, visit The Consilience Group website at http://www.theconsiliencegroup.com

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Kenneth W. Harris
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