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Exercise Lite

This letter requests to publish in Fitness Management next month our opinion as to the meaning, intent, probable behavioral and social effects, and health implications of the “Exercise Lite” public awareness message that was issued jointly in the summer of 1993 by the American College of Sports Medicine and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. We are motivated to offer our perspective after reading with considerable concern the article on this topic that you published by Drs. Jim Peterson and Cedric Bryant.

They lament that “Exercise Lite” seems to abandon the very foundations of science and health that have been the hallmarks of ACSM policy statements. They speculate that the ultimate effect of this message actually will be the discouragement of health-enhancing exercise behavior among Americans. We do share our two colleagues’ concerns about the inadequate levels of physical activity, exercise and physical fitness across the American population. We also share their enthusiasm for promoting meaningful increases in exercise behavior so as to counter this problem.

We differ entirely on what Exercise Lite means for the quantification of physical activity levels among those who are below the threshold for minimal benefits to health. We differ also from our colleagues on how we believe the message may influence a special potion of the population — those in the lowest activity strata who are contemplating a sustainable increase in their personal physical activity pattern. Our view is that Exercise Lite can become a highly effective educational tool for health/fitness professionals and clinicians to promote exercise with their clients and patients. There is a solid rationale for this message and it is consistent with pre-existing published scientific statements of the ACSM, as well as its public policy perspective on promoting healthful physical activity.

The key challenge in public policy endeavors seems to be to encourage fidelity in translation with what must necessarily be a concise, uncomplicated and appealing message to the consumer. When individual professional interpretations are voiced suggesting deleterious consequences, such as those in the Fitness Management article “Exercise Lite: Medicine or placebo?” it is essential that divergent interpretations be made available so that professionals not only may diminish consumer confusion about the meaning of the message, but also provide them with straightforward suggestions that allow it to be used with the most favorable effect.

It is our goal to promote healthful behavior changes in those Americans who are in the contemplative stage relative to doing something positive, attainable, safe and enjoyable in order to reduce their risks for major chronic diseases.

We look forward to your reply and, hopefully, the opportunity next month to offer Fitness Management readers an interpretation that clarifies and expands upon ways to use ACSM Exercise Lite to promote physical activity in those clients who most need to understand and benefit from it!

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