Individually-adapted physical activity programs

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help promote healthy childhood environments and provide access to health services. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Promoting healthier decisions: Individually-adapted physical activity programs are behavioral interventions that teach participants the skills to make choices that promote a healthier lifestyle. Such programs aim to increase participants’ physical fitness and level of physical activity.

  • Building skills for behavioral change: Individually-adapted physical activity programs are typically delivered by health counselors working for school districts, healthcare systems, social service agencies, and various community-based organizations. Working one-on-one with their counselor, participants learn skills that enable behavioral change, like goal-setting, self-monitoring, and positive self-talk.

  • Tailoring the program to each participant: Programs generally include a standardized assessment, which helps the counselor understand each participant’s habits around physical activity and identify any barriers they face to healthier decision-making. While programs often focus on physical activity, they may also promote behavioral change in related areas, like healthy eating, managing stress, and quitting smoking.

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that individually-adapted physical activity programs are a well-established strategy for improving physical fitness and increasing physical activity.

  • Assess conditions in the community: Before launching an individually-adapted physical activity program, the lead organization should examine factors that will enable and constrain successful implementation in the local environment. Key factors to consider may include financial resources and funding, political support, cultural factors, and broader trends in community health.

  • Select intended audiences: Individually-adapted physical activity programs may be most effective when targeted towards specific subpopulations with shared characteristics (e.g., older adults, college students). By segmenting the audience for the program, the implementing organization can tailor aspects of the program, like outreach strategies and the design of program materials, to those specific groups.

  • Incorporate physical activity into everyday activities: In addition to supporting participants in engaging in sustained exercise (e.g., sports), programs may help participants identify opportunities for physical activity during their everyday activities (e.g., taking breaks to move during work, playing with children during childcare). These steps may be easier for some participants to achieve, allowing them to build momentum toward larger changes.

  • Evaluate the program: By evaluating their individually-adapted physical activity program, implementing organizations can demonstrate the program’s effectiveness and identify opportunities for improvement. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a program evaluation framework, which can support organizations in engaging in practical, ongoing evaluation.