What is the National Physical Activity Plan? The National Physical Activity Plan is an extensive series of plans, policies, and programs designed to improve physical activity in all segments of our society. The plan aims to promote a national culture which supports active, healthy lives.
It was established by the National Institute of Health to address the concerns of health educators, parents, children, teens, teachers, school administrators, and others concerned about encouraging physical activity among youth, particularly kids with obesity and other health problems. The goals of the plan are to reduce the obesity-related health disparities; improve academic achievement and test scores; reduce unintentional injuries and deaths; promote physical education; reduce the incidence of chronic diseases; reduce teen pregnancies and births; reduce tobacco use and smoking; and promote healthy nutritional habits and behaviors. Among other measures, the plan encourages kids and adults to participate in organized sports and physical education. Schools, cities, states, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, and individual homes are encouraged to adopt the plan. Participating entities need to develop a written policy to assure that their program is consistent with the NIDOC Policy and the purposes of the Mental Fitness Parity Act.
According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the National Physical Activity Plan was established by a group of experts, most of whom are involved in health fields. The group had a consensus that the National Physical Activity Plan could be used as a tool for promoting healthy living and exercise and as a resource for parents, teachers, youths, hospitals, and other organizations. The British Journal of Sports Medicine also reports that the UK government has been supportive of the plan since its inception. The researchers behind the British Journal of Sports Medicine claim that the introduction of the National Physical Activity Plan into schools was successful in reducing sudden deaths due to unintentional injuries and cardiovascular disease among children. The authors of the British Journal of Sports Medicine also claim that the introduction of the plan into the National Health Service has seen a significant reduction in long-term hospital stays due to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, and hypertension.
More organizations and communities are expected to adopt the National Physical Activity Plan into their efforts to reduce health risks and increase physical activity. As more people become physically active throughout the year, the number of preventable deaths from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other diseases increases significantly. For this reason, the UK government is optimistic about the plan. “The introduction of the NCAP into schools has seen a dramatic increase in health visitor visits and admissions,” the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported. “NCAP is an excellent platform to encourage healthy behaviours among young people and children.”
According to the editors of a recent edition of the British Medical Journal, “It is not clear whether it [the NCAP] is having a positive effect on health promotion strategies. It has been reported that the majority of those who have completed the program do not intend to continue to follow it to completion.” However, “there is evidence that the program is having a positive effect on attendance and reported improvements in health.” At least one doctor in Britain recommended the program to his patients, stating that they would likely remain physically active if they did not adopt the NCAP.
A group of British doctors reported in the British Medical Journal that the national physical activity plan “does not meet the criteria” for official use by UK government health officials as an official health Promotion Strategy. These include the need to focus on nutrition as the single most important factor in determining a person's risk for chronic disease. These experts noted that obesity is now the second leading cause of ill health in the UK. The UK obesity strategy has been in existence since 2021, but it is unclear as to whether its impact has been increased. At least one health charity, the British Heart Foundation, has welcomed the development, calling obesity “a silent killer.”
National Health Service (NHS) chief medical officer Sir Peter Spencer recently stated that he welcomes “the opportunity” to review the current NHS physical activity strategy, which was last reviewed in 2021. He went on to state that he sees “a number of gaps” in the strategy, including a lack of a clear definition of recess, as well as an absence of a strategy for reducing the number of people who are obese or overweight. He concluded that further work is required to make the NHS more actively involved in improving health promotion, especially through encouraging more people to be physically active.
An article published by the British Medical Journal called for a review of the physical activity strategy as part of a package of measures to tackle the problem of childhood obesity. It stated that the strategy “should incorporate a range of measures to promote physical activity,” and that such measures should be consistent with promoting healthy weight management, improved nutrition and better overall health. According to the authors of this article, there is “no evidence to suggest that a healthy lifestyle can be achieved without some level of physical activity.” They went on to point out that evidence-based practice is crucial for increasing the quality of health services, and that such practice “may not be the best way to meet these aims,” but they believe that it is a “convenient and affordable way to ensure that everyone is active.” This evidence-based approach could prove to be an effective means of developing an effective physical-activity strategy for promoting a healthy lifestyle in the United Kingdom.