Health and Fitness Industry Urges C-Suite Executives to Lead America to Wellness by Taking Landmark CEO Pledge

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The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is urging America’s business leaders to become personally involved in leading the United States to wellness by taking the CEO Pledge, a key component of the United State’s first-ever National Physical Activity Plan (Plan). The Plan is a comprehensive set of policies, programs, and initiatives aimed at increasing physical activity in all segments of the American population with the ultimate purpose of improving health, preventing disease and disability, and enhancing quality of life. Chief Executive Officers who take the pledge vow to improve employee health and wellness by producing opportunities and resources for physical activity before, during, or after the workday.

By promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles within the workplace, CEOs help their company’s bottom line. But they also help society.

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is urging America’s business leaders to become personally involved in leading the United States to wellness by taking the CEO Pledge, a key component of the United State’s first-ever National Physical Activity Plan (Plan). The Plan is a comprehensive set of policies, programs, and initiatives aimed at increasing physical activity in all segments of the American population with the ultimate purpose of improving health, preventing disease and disability, and enhancing quality of life. Chief Executive Officers who take the pledge vow to improve employee health and wellness by producing opportunities and resources for physical activity before, during, or after the workday.

The CEO Pledge was unveiled last week at the HERO Forum, the annual conference of the Health Enhancement Research Organization, by Dave Pickering, a strategy leader for the Plan and CEO of Preventure.

“The CEO Pledge makes clear that business leaders have an influential role to play in addressing our country’s health and health care crises,” said Joe Moore, President and CEO of IHRSA. “With most working adults spending roughly half their waking hours on the job on the days that they work, it is incumbent upon business and industry leaders to become part of the solution. By promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles within the workplace, CEOs help their company’s bottom line. But they also help society.”

The CEO Pledge is being launched at an extremely significant time—just as world leaders are gathering in New York for the High-level meeting of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases. According to the UN, the four main non-communicable diseases—cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases and diabetes—kill three in five people worldwide, and cause great socioeconomic harm. This is only the second time in the history of the UN that the General Assembly has met on a health issue. The last issue was AIDS.

In today’s largely sedentary work environments, these NCDs, or chronic diseases, are plaguing America’s workforce; driving up the cost of healthcare; and causing U.S. businesses to suffer considerable financial losses due to lost productivity resulting from absenteeism, disability, and presenteeism (being sick at work). Yet, many of these NCDs can be prevented, mitigated, and/or managed with regular exercise, proper diet, and healthy lifestyle behaviors.

“Exercise and other workplace wellness programs can help curb the dramatic rise that we are seeing in these non-communicable diseases,” said Moore. “But these programs also bring significant financial benefits to businesses.”

Researchers have documented anywhere from $1.49 to $13 return for every dollar invested in employee wellness. Studies show that employees who exercise at least once a week, regardless of their weight, have lower health care costs than their sedentary co-workers. One study, in fact, showed that active employees take 27 percent fewer sick days and report 14 to 25 percent fewer disability days than inactive employees. What’s more, workplace wellness programs help attract and retain talented employees.

According to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) that came out in advance of the UN High-level meeting, 87 percent of all U.S. deaths are due to NCDs. And 43 percent of the U.S. population is physically inactive.

“The National Physical Activity Plan is inspiring action by U.S. leaders from multiple disciplines and is creating an historic movement to increase physical activity among all Americans,” said Pickering. “The CEO Pledge asks America’s business leaders to pledge their commitment to the betterment of their companies and employees—and to become part of the solution to our nation’s health and health care challenges.”

Moore also noted: “It is appropriate that we are taking action to implement our country’s own National Physical Activity Plan as world leaders gather to formulate ideas on how to strengthen national capacities globally for addressing the prevention and control of NCDs.”

For more information about the CEO Pledge and to find out how to get your company involved, please contact the Plan’s Business and Industry Sector Co-Leader, Tom Richards at tgr@ihrsa.org. For ideas on ways to introduce exercise into the workplace, businesses can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the “Healthier Worksite Initiative” page, at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/hwi/index.htm.

“A healthy workforce is essential to America’s future prosperity,” Moore adds. “Workplace wellness can only be achieved with the personal support of top-level management. We urge America’s CEOs—of large and small businesses alike—to exert their leadership and take the CEO Pledge.”

Text of the CEO Pledge
“For the betterment of my company, our employees, their families, and our country, I pledge to improve employee health and wellness by providing opportunities and resources for physical activity before, during or after the workday.”

Primary Prevention and the Benefits of Regular Exercise
IHRSA has long been a proponent of primary prevention for a healthier, more prosperous America.

Primary prevention refers to the deterrence of disease before it occurs by engaging in beneficial lifestyle behaviors, such as regular exercise, healthy eating, avoidance of tobacco and other controlled substances, stress management, and routine medical exams.

Since the late 1980s, roughly two-thirds of the increase in health care spending in the United States has been due to the increased prevalence of treated chronic disease, according to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. Today, about half of all Americans suffer from one or more chronic disease. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic diseases are largely attributable to four controllable health risk behaviors: (1) the lack of physical activity, (2) poor nutrition, (3) tobacco use, and (4) excessive alcohol consumption.

The CDC estimates that 80 percent of heart disease and stroke, 80 percent of type 2 diabetes, and 40 percent of cancer could be prevented if Americans stopped smoking, exercised more, and started eating more healthfully. A full $5.6 billion in heart disease costs could be saved if 10 percent of adults began a regular walking program. And according to a 2008 report by the Trust for America’s Health, an investment of $10 per person per year in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use, could save the country more than $16 billion annually within five years. The potential savings in direct medical costs if all inactive American adults engaged in regular physical activity could be as high as $80,000,000,000.

Research shows that physical activity is extremely important to good health. At the proper moderate intensity, regular exercise significantly improves overall health; reduces the risk of heart disease by 40 percent; lowers the risk of stroke by 27 percent; reduces the incidence of high blood pressure by almost 50 percent; reduces the incidence of diabetes by almost 50 percent; can reduce mortality and the risk of recurrent breast cancer by almost 50 percent; can lower the risk of colon cancer by over 60 percent; can reduce the risk of developing of Alzheimer’s disease by one-third; and can decrease depression as effectively as medications or behavioral therapy—according to Exercise is Medicine™, a global initiative supported by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) calling on physicians to assess and review every patient’s physical activity program at every visit.

About IHRSA
IHRSA is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide. IHRSA is committed to taking a leadership role in advancing physical activity, which is critical to America's health and the battle against obesity and disease. IHRSA supports effective national initiatives to promote more active lifestyles for all Americans and is working to pass laws that will help affect societal changes toward a more fit America.

IHRSA is a co-chair of the Business and Industry Sector of the National Physical Activity Plan; a member of the advisory board of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD); a founding member of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA); a partner with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in promoting the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines; a network member of the Exercise is Medicine™ initiative; was a primary participant in the launch of the Adult Fitness Test introduced by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; has helped the HHS Office on Women’s Health in promoting National Women’s Health Week, National Women’s Check-Up Day, and the Woman Challenge; partnered with the President’s Council in 1995 on the three-year “Get Up, Get Out” public awareness campaign focusing on youth fitness; was one of the earliest proponents of the PEP legislation (Carol M. White Physical Education Program); and recently introduced the publication, “The Economic Benefits of Regular Exercise.” Through its member clubs, IHRSA has offered community outreach and health promotion programs since 1986, including Commit to Get Fit, Families Involved Together, Teen Fitness Connection, I Lost It at the Club!, and Get Active America!

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