WASHINGTON, D.C.—March 6, 2019The National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) today announced new leadership to its board of directors for the 2019-2020 term and reiterated its commitment to empowering and inspiring all Americans to lead more physically active lives. Helen Durkin, J.D.—a 30-year fitness industry veteran and executive vice president for public policy for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)—will take over as NCPPA president and spearhead the coalition’s advocacy and public policy efforts for the next two years. James Whitehead, executive vice president and CEO of the American College of Sports Medicine, will serve as NCPPA’s secretary-treasurer.

“NCPPA’s work has become increasingly relevant as our nation continues to struggle with the cost of healthcare,” said Durkin. “Physical inactivity is closely tied to an increased risk of costly chronic diseases. By making it easier for all Americans to live more physically active lives, we can improve both the physical and fiscal health of our country. I look forward to my new role as board president and to advancing the important work of NCPPA. And I encourage all organizations that care about the well-being of our nation to consider joining this important coalition.”

NCPPA 2019-2020: Communications, Collaboration, and Impact

During the 116th Congress and NCPPA’s 2019-2020 term, the Coalition will focus its advocacy and public policy efforts on six general areas:

  1. Education: NCPPA will work toward promoting policies and programs that increase the opportunity for physical activity at all levels of education—from early child care to the university level—before during, and after the school day.
  2. Community: NCPPA will seek to strengthen local communities by supporting efforts to increase the number of parks, sidewalks, and other open spaces and built environments that allow for recreational and leisure-time physical activity. Built environments should allow for widely accessible active transportation for residents of all ages and physical abilities.
  3. Workplace: Through public policy and legislative efforts, as well as through initiatives such as the CEO Pledge, NCPPA will encourage cultures of wellness and programs within the workplace that provide opportunities for exercise before, during, and after the workday.
  4. Healthcare: NCPPA will continue to press for changes within the healthcare delivery system so exercise is: a) appropriately integrated into referral and counseling protocols, b) prescribed and covered as a preventive medical expense, and c) recognized as a first-line and adjunct therapy, when appropriate, for existing chronic conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, anxiety, osteoarthritis, etc. NCPPA will continue to support the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT) as its flagship legislation.
  5. Safe sports: NCPPA will advocate for safe sport practices, including appropriate athlete safety measures, programs, and professional training of coaches, athletic officials, and other affiliated professionals within schools, community recreation programs, and other relevant physical activity venues.
  6. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: NCPPA will continue to support appropriate and timely updates to the National Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and communicate the Guidelines so all Americans know about them and how to build adequate levels of physical activity into their daily lives.

“Now, as we look ahead, NCPPA and its new leadership are more determined than ever to engender a societal shift toward more physically active lifestyles for all,” said Ayanna McKnight, Coalition Manager of NCPPA. “We firmly believe that physical activity has an important role to play in addressing the most pressing issues our nation currently faces. From containing national spending on healthcare by preventing and managing costly chronic diseases, to creating a healthier workforce and robust economy, to ensuring that we have strong, eligible recruits for our military, to building good mental health and aiding in addiction prevention and treatment, physically active lifestyles are essential for a stronger America and a more promising tomorrow.”

The Status of Physical Activity in the United States

In November 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) issued new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAG)—the second edition of those originally issued in 2008. The PAG provides updated guidance—along with evidence-based, supporting information—on how much physical activity Americans should get to improve health.

Overall, the PAG urge Americans to sit less, move more, and include both muscle-strengthening and aerobic physical activity into their lives. The guidelines also provide time and exercise-intensity goals by age group. And they address the physical activity needs of pregnant and postpartum women as well as for people with disabilities and chronic conditions.

According to the co-chair of the Physical Activity Guidelines Scientific Advisory Committee, Kenneth E. Powell, M.D., M.P.H., regular physical activity helps prevent and/or manage 8of the ten most expensive medical conditions.

Yet, 8 out of 10 Americans (adults and adolescents) are not active enough. And when all the sedentary time is added up, more than a quarter of U.S. adults sit for more than eight hours a day.

Helen Durkin, J.D., biography

As executive vice president of public policy for IHRSA, the trade association for the health club industry, Durkin is a committed advocate of physical activity, primary prevention, and public policies that advance wellness.

Having worked with health clubs across the globe to promote healthy lifestyles for more than 30 years, she understands full well the challenges people face in becoming and staying physically active in an increasingly sedentary society.

Durkin is passionate about the important role exercise plays in the well-being and happiness of all Americans. And she speaks regularly on the importance of physical activity to America’s business productivity, economic health, global competitiveness, and national security.

Upon joining IHRSA in 1989, Helen developed the health club industry's first government relations and legal service programs. Under her public policy leadership, IHRSA became a founding member of NCPPA; co-chaired the Business and Industry Sector of the National Physical Activity Plan and is an Organization Affiliate of the plan; participates on the advisory board of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD); partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in promoting the first Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans in 2008; is a network member of the Exercise is Medicine initiative; has worked with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition on a number of initiatives; and created The IHRSA Foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization aimed at promoting health through exercise.

As part of its commitment to inclusivity and under Durkin’s public policy leadership, IHRSA joined forces with the UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Physical Education, Sport, Recreation & Fitness, along with other partners, to create UFIT. UFIT, which stands for Universal Fitness Innovation & Transformation, is a global social change initiative that provides fitness industry professionals with the resources and training they need so they can offer more programming for people of all abilities. With support from the IHRSA Foundation, ACCESS Health: Inclusive Fitness pilot programs—using the UFIT model—are being implemented in a growing number of clubs.

Prior to her role at IHRSA, Durkin worked for the labor law firm of Kearns & Associates, and worked in various government positions in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. She received her law degree in 1986 from Washington College of Law at American University and played varsity lacrosse at Holy Cross, where she earned her undergraduate degree in political science.


NCPPA a leading force in the country promoting physical activity and fitness initiatives. A nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., NCPPA is a diverse blend of associations, health organizations, and private corporations advocating for policies that empower and inspire Americans of all ages and abilities to become more physically active.