Promoting Physical Activity in the Workplace: Implementing the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan

Social Determinants of Health & Community

Laurie Whitsel

Laurie P. Whitsel, PhD, FAHA

Vice President of Policy Research and Translation Strategic Policy Lead – Physical Activity, American Heart Association


Release of the second  edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAGs) in fall 2018 provides an important opportunity to assure that everyone in the United States knows how lifesaving it is to move more and sit less.  Employers are a catalyst for disseminating and reinforcing the major recommendations in the guidelines as they are at a nexus of workplace, community, and health care delivery. The National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) is the road map for implementing the PAGs and has important recommendations for the workplace sector. We will review the NPAP recommendations which should be of special interest to employers, highlight the key benefits of the PAGs for brain health, productivity, weight management, reducing depression and anxiety, preventing and managing chronic disease, and lengthening healthy life expectancy.  And we will review the important ways employers can assess for physical activity,  cardiorespiratory fitness and sedentary behavior in their employee populations.  It is an important and exciting time to inspire a physically active nation.


Presenter Bio(s):

Laurie Whitsel, PhD is currently the Vice President of Policy Research and Translation for the American Heart Association (AHA), helping to translate science into policy at a national level in the areas of cardiovascular disease and stroke prevention and health promotion. The association’s policy research department provides policy development and the foundation for the American Heart Association’s advocacy work at the global, national, state, and local levels. Guided by volunteer leadership, the AHA policy research team has worked with leading experts around the world to develop policy statements that position the organization on issues that will impact cardiovascular health and reduce mortality, guide the association’s advocacy work, and inform policy makers, practitioners, health care professionals, researchers, the media, and the public. Whitsel presents at national conferences on prevention issues and evidence-based policy making. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Health Enhancement Research Organization and the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity. She has led the development of AHA’s strategic policy agenda. She has served on expert advisory groups with RAND, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She has been a sector co-leader for the National Physical Activity Plan and leads the AHA’s internal strategic plan around physical activity. She serves as an expert peer reviewer for several scientific journals and is a consultant on research grant teams. She gives regular guest lectures at Columbia University. Her Ph.D. is from Syracuse University and she is a Fellow and member of the AHA’s National Scientific Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health.

Whitsel lives in Ligonier, PA with her husband Brad, and they have two children, Christian, who attends Gettysburg College, and Amy, who is entering law school at Catholic University. In her spare time, Whitsel coaches an AHA jump rope demonstration and competition team which promotes lifetime physical activity for kids and competes nationally and internationally.