Should We Stress Quality or Quantity (or Both) in Physical Activity Campaigns?

Nov 29

It’s nearly impossible to go a day without seeing an advertisement about physical activity and its importance. National campaigns (like NFL’s Play 60 or Partnership for a Healthier America among others) are frequently featured in mainstream media outlets, on social media accounts, and in advertisements. With the obesity epidemic sweeping the nation and affecting both adolescents and adults, physical activity (as well as nutrition) should be top of mind for all.

Recently, the New York Times’ Well blog (Updating the Message to Get Americans Moving) explored public health messages about exercise, particularly in relation to the intensity of activity.

Bottom line? Many, if not most, of physical activity campaign messages stress the recommended amount of physical activity – 60 minutes daily for adolescents and 150 minutes a week for adults. What isn’t being communicated is the recommended intensity level; physical activity should be a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity (for youth) and moderate intensity (for adults). Both groups should also participate in muscle and bone strengthening activity.

Few adults are getting the minimum amount of exercise recommended (only one in three adults, according to Healthy People 2010), and even less are getting the minimum amount of moderate activity (3.5 percent, according to recent studies cited in the New York Times blog).

For communications professionals, messaging is a critical part of any initiative. After all, the key message(s) helps the target audience understand the issue, why it is (or should be) important to them, and what they should do (i.e., change a lifestyle habit, purchase a product, take some other specific action).

As communicators seeking to inspire behavior change, should we ensure messaging includes both the recommended amount of exercise and the intensity level? Or should our goal be first to get people off the couch and moving first, and then educate about the different vigor levels? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2012 at 12:46 pm and is filed under Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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