Building Better Health: Physical Activity Challenge

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) CEO Council on Health and Innovation (CEO Council) is inviting employers across the U.S. to join them in engaging their employees in physical activity through Building Better Health: Physical Activity Challenge (Physical Activity Challenge).

Goals of the Challenge

The primary goals of the Physical Activity Challenge are to:

  • Improve the health and wellbeing of individuals;
  • Support successful implementation of physical activity programs across all American businesses by identifying best practices and lessons learned through independent evaluation of the effort; and
  • Increase awareness of the importance of physical activity in improving health and wellbeing among all Americans.

The challenge is part of the commitment the CEO Council made last year when it released Building Better Health: Innovative Strategies from America’s Business Leaders, a report that highlighted strategies and actions to improve employee and community health, as well as health care delivery.


Employers who agree to participate in the Physical Activity Challenge will invite their employees to enroll in a physical activity program and commit to a minimum of 8 weeks of physical activity during which time employees will track their steps and/or exercise via an employer-sponsored platform. Participating employers must begin their program by no later than October 2015.

Participating employers will also share their general program design and both aggregate and average activity levels with an independent set of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, to contribute to the identification of strategies that will support successful engagement of employees in physical activity programs by employers across the U.S.

Employers are also encouraged to invite their employees to complete brief voluntary surveys to assist with further evaluation by the Johns Hopkins team, including a pre-challenge survey and short follow-up surveys 8 weeks after completion of the challenge and again 6 and 12 months after completion of the challenge, to evaluate the impact of physical activity and identify effective strategies for driving higher levels of participation and sustainable behavior change. Key outcomes, best practices, and lessons learned will be disseminated following the challenge.

Resources to Help Employers Engage Employees in Physical Activity

To help employers implement the Physical Activity Challenge, Towers Watson has designed a special Employer Toolkit in collaboration with the CEO Council and BPC. This toolkit provides specifics of the challenge, the business case for physical activity, best practices, and key considerations for employers when they launch a physical activity effort.

Benefits of Physical Activity

Physical inactivity has been identified by the World Health Organization as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, accounting for 6 percent of deaths globally. It is estimated to be a main cause for 21-25 percent of breast and colon cancers, 27 percent of diabetes, and approximately 30 percent of ischemic heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, physical activity has also been associated with numerous health benefits, including lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. It helps control weight, promotes stronger bones and muscles, improves mental health and mood, and can increase chances of living longer.

Benefits of Employer Participation

Employers also recognize that physical activity can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing and the organization. According to a Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health survey, 73 percent of surveyed U.S. employers report lack of physical activity as an issue in their workforce. Another recent U.S. study found that physically active adults had lower annual health care expenditures than insufficiently active adults, and overall, 11.1 percent of total health care expenditures were associated with inadequate physical activity.

Employers who participate in the Physical Activity Challenge will benefit from sharing successful strategies and lessons learned with their peers to improve the success of physical activity programs within their own organizations. They will also contribute to and learn from a formal, independent evaluation that will identify effective strategies for driving higher levels of participation and sustainable behavior change. According to a Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health survey, lack of employee engagement was cited by 77 percent of employers as the biggest barrier to success of health and wellness programs.

About the CEO Council on Health and Innovation

BPC’s CEO Council on Health and Innovation is comprised of chief executives of some of the nation’s largest employers who are taking actions to improve the health and wellness of individuals and achieve higher quality, more cost-effective, patient-centered care. CEO Council members are adopting innovative strategies and inviting other employers to join them in their commitment to improve the health and wellness of individuals, the health of communities, and the health care system.

Members of the CEO Council include the CEOs of Aetna, Bank of America, Institute for Advanced Health and NantHealth, Johnson & Johnson, McKinsey & Company, The Coca-Cola Company, and Verizon Communications.

Senior human resources and strategy executives of each CEO Council member company are engaged in a work group designated to design and lead efforts associated with Building Better Health: Physical Activity Challenge. Jim Huffman of Bank of America and Audrietta Izlar of Verizon Communications serve as co-chairs of this effort.

A Health Care Advisory Board, made up of chief executives of organizations representing clinicians, consumers, and hospitals provide guidance to the CEO Council, along with Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Bill Frist (R-TN). BPC Health Innovation Initiative Director Janet Marchibroda serves as the executive director of the CEO Council.

For additional information about the CEO Council, please visit and for additional information about BPC, please visit

How to Join the Physical Activity Challenge

To sign up for the Building Better Health: Physical Activity Challenge, contact Janet Marchibroda, executive director of the CEO Council on Health and Innovation, at