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SNEWS Qs, IHRSA Edition: Executive Director of the President's Council on Exercise Shellie Y. Pfohl

SNEWS chats with Shelly Y. Pfohl, the executive director of the President's Council on Exercise, who will speak at IHRSA in a few weeks, discussing potential partnerships to be made with the volunteer 25-member council that aims to make kids and adults healthier and more active.

Shellie Y. Pfohl, the executive director of the President’s Council on Exercise, will speak at IHRSA in a few weeks, discussing potential partnerships to be made with the volunteer 25-member council that aims to make kids and adults healthier and more active. The event is sponsored by Spri Products.

What do you hope to accomplish at IHRSA?

First of all, I am thrilled about the opportunity for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition to support the 2012 IHRSA Convention. IHRSA’s commitment to the Council’s Joining Forces Fitness Initiative, launched last May by the President’s Council and First Lady Michelle Obama, has been incredible. IHRSA committed its members to donating 100,000 free health club memberships to the families of deployed National Guard and Reserve members. At this year’s convention, the President’s Council is looking to show appreciation to the IHRSA members who have signed up their club, and also to inspire more club owners to participate in this great initiative to serve America’s military families.

What role do you think the fitness industry, both retailers and health clubs, play in keeping America active?

The fitness industry has a very important role in helping Americans stay active. Retailers and health clubs can provide the environment and the equipment necessary to engage and inspire more people to get fit. Health clubs in particular can be a way for Americans to develop a routine and provide the motivation needed to stick with it. An important thing to consider is that accessibility to health clubs is difficult for many Americans, often due to financial limitations or intimidation factors. Health clubs can strive for the clubs to be welcoming, safe, and health and fitness retailers can offer affordable equipment and apparel to help more Americans stay active.

How can specialty fitness retailers better engage the community to be active?

Specialty fitness retailers can provide necessary resources to communities that help the members live more active lifestyles. Many cities, towns and counties already have a stretched budget with minimal allocation to health and fitness programs, equipment and facilities. The first step is to work with the local leaders to identify the needs and limitations of the community, then by collaborating to eliminate any barriers and provide resources, the fitness retailers can make a positive difference in the community.

How can engaging the community to be more active benefit specialty fitness retailers?

Engaging with the community can enable retailers to develop relationships on a personal level. This allows the community members to associate a positive image with a particular retailer, which is a great marketing opportunity for the fitness industry. It is important to understand that all Americans have a stake in the obesity epidemic, and fitness retailers have the resources to directly impact communities — and the results can last a lifetime.

What are some of the goals you hope to get accomplished during your time as the executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition?

One important project is “modernizing” the youth fitness test. This is the test that many of us took in PE class and many of our kids still take the test. It is in need of updating and we want to move to a health-related test instead of an athletic performance-based assessment. We are working with some key partners to make this happen. I also want to continue to build partnerships with organizations of all types (corporate, community-based, government, etc.) to advance our collective mission of a healthier America. And I want to bring greater attention to the importance of qualified youth sport coaches. Those are a few things and there is so much yet to be done.

What have been some of the highlights of your time on the council?

The biggest highlight for me is visiting the school and community programs. There are so many ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Before and after school walking programs, recess programs, gardens, community programs — the list is endless and the innovation used to get and keep kids and adults on track towards health is inspiring. It gives me real hope that we can turn the tide on obesity and help our kids to grow up to be healthy, vibrant adults.

What have been some of the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Probably the overall lack of resources. So little funding is available for true prevention. But that is why partnerships are so important. We can do so much by sharing and combining resources, financial and creative, for the good of all.

What is the motto you live by?

Go big or go home.

–Ana Trujillo