Conference Participants Sweat Over Americans' Lack of Exercise

Publication of the proceedings of a conference on physical activity interventions in a special issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine

The Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) held a conference entitled "Physical Activity Interventions," at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas, on October 19–21, 1997.

The objective of the conference was to compile and assess what is known about how to increase the adoption and maintenance of physical activity. The conference was sponsored by several organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than 175 experts in the field, public officials, and representatives from private health organizations examined what is known about how to increase the adoption and maintenance of physical activity.

The papers presented at the conference were written with the understanding that while the frequency and intensity of physical exercise needed to maintain health are well-known, only 15 percent of adults in the United States exercise regularly at the recommended level ("Physical Activity and Health: A Report to the Surgeon General"—CDC 1996).

This is a serious problem given that many diseases are attributed to sedentary living habits. The papers examined interventions that are designed to remedy this problem, including those involving the mass media, health care, environmental design, and policy changes. The papers examined the efficacy of existing interventions in both youth and adult populations, as well as among the elderly, those with low incomes, ethnic minorities, and the disabled.

Key Findings

Participants agreed that:

  • Exercise scientists and public health officials should promote public policy and legislative initiatives to restructure physical and social environments to encourage physical activity and discourage sedentary habits.
  • More research is needed to understand the factors that motivate individuals to exercise and how those factors vary among population groups.

Key Results

Under the grant, the project team:

  • Published cross-disciplinary conference papers as a special November 1998 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine entitled "Physical Activity Interventions" (November 1998).

    This comprehensive supplement has provided valuable guidelines in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) Health & Behavior effort to develop new initiatives in the area of physical activity.
  • Published and disseminated some 1,900 extra copies to organizations such as the CDC, the ACSM, and the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity.


RWJF provided funding for publication of the conference proceedings with a grant of $10,000 from October 1997 to November 1998.

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