Surgeon General’s Report due in May

Posted by Lloyd on July 05, 2012
Health

In 1964, the Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health tilted the battlefield in favor of reducing tobacco smoking and improving the health of the American people. Sometime in the next couple of months of 1996 (probably in late May or early June), the first U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health will be released to the public.

Like the report on smoking, we expect that the new SGR on physical activity will help people resolve to change what they do (or don’t do) in order to feel better and live longer. To turn that initial resolve into long-lasting action will require major efforts on the part of many educational, fitness, health and medical organizations. The war on deadly inactivity will not be won with one shot.

On the other hand, while the SGR is new and being reported in the news, talked about in the electronic media and picked up in the popular magazines, some early tactics by providers of fitness services could achieve unusual success. John McCarthy, executive director of IHRSA (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association), calls the forthcoming report “a virtual gift to our industry from the highest medical authority; essentially, the Surgeon General’s Office is endorsing our principal product — exercise.”

To take advantage of that prestigious endorsement, the fitness services industry needs to do two things: help maintain the impact of the report on the public consciousness and help individual exercisers deal with the issues that cause most people to drop out.

Maintaining the impact

Fortunately, a lot of organizations are lining up to help get out the word. A National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity, announced during last year’s meetings of the American College of Sports Medicine, now includes virtually all the important health, fitness and sports-medicine associations. In addition to its broad communication, education and advocacy roles, the coalition is supporting the dissemination of the SGR, especially in the private sector.

There is a role for your club in promoting awareness, while identifying your local offerings with the report. If the club spokesperson will do the homework in the next month or so, he or she can offer to be interviewed on local news or talk shows on the very day that the national news breaks. (IHRSA is providing its member clubs with a Club Action Kit to help take advantage of this opportunity). Much needs to be done within hours, not days, of the report’s release.

Dealing with individuals

The SGR will almost surely include the fact that the lack of physical activity is as detrimental to your health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. In fact, exercising and continuing to smoke has been found less hazardous than not smoking and continuing to be inactive.

Will this be an incredible new idea to nonexercisers? Probably not. Will they find it easier to maintain an exercise program now that the Surgeon General’s office has spoken? Probably not. Inactive individuals will be reminded, one more time, that it’s important to exercise and, like the New Year’s resolution crowd, will show up at your door.

The health-motivated individual with little exercise experience is still going to be a very high dropout risk. If you want to profit it the long term from the Surgeon General’s endorsement, you will need to use every retention skill at your command.

With that in mind, Fitness Management is publishing Enhancing Exercise Motivation: A Guide to Increasing Fitness Center Member Retention. The book’s author, Jim Annesi, Ph.D., has developed practical systems from what has been a growing, interesting but hard-to-apply body of research in exercise psychology (see page 51). If the SGR really does change the customer base, the fitness industry will need to adapt its customer-service mix accordingly.

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