Physical activity plan

A physical activity plan can form the overriding planning document for council to coordinate and implement actions to increase physical activity. It is also useful in identifying all relevant sections of council with a role in achieving these objectives.

This section provides information on steps involved in developing and implementing a physical activity plan. It provides resourcing tips and useful websites for further information.

Definition: What is a physical activity plan?

A physical activity plan is a strategic planning document that identifies physical activity as a priority for council and contains actions aimed at raising awareness and increasing participation in physical activity. It can encourage and coordinate the actions of a range of departments and organisations to promote increased participation in physical activity.  A physical activity plan identifies:

  • existing resources that support people to be physically active
  • community needs and barriers to participation
  • strategies and actions to increase participation in physical activity
  • measurable goals and a time frame for action
  • priorities for action and lead agencies or groups. (Premiers Physical Activity Taskforce, 2008)

How to develop a physical activity plan

The following has been summarised from Be Active WA, How to: Physical Activity Plans: A guide for local governments (see

  1. Before embarking on the physical activity plan, obtain political and senior management support.
  2. Establish a working or steering group to guide the development, structure and processes involved, support its implementation and evaluation. The group should have council officers from various sections or departments, elected representatives and external agencies — such as state government and community groups. Identify all areas of council that have a role or influence on physical activity and ensure they are engaged in the process.
  3. Collect data including community profile and context, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data overlaid on Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping to determine localities that have large populations at risk of low physical activity participation. Review other relevant reports and policies from within your council and state government to identify policy linkages.  Also examine research from overseas and interstate.
  4. Review existing resources to identify gaps and determine community need — for example community facilities such as swimming pools and halls; private facilities such as gyms and tennis centres; public open space, paths and trails; other community facilities such as schools; programs and community organisations for activities, memberships, sporting groups, skills.
  5. Undertake community consultation to determine what types of physical activity people like to participate in and the barriers that currently exist to restrict their participation.
  6. Write the physical activity plan. Areas of outcomes for the plan can include:
    • communications and information
    • service and program development
    • facilities
    • access, equity and safety
    • partnership development
    • capacity building.

The plan can also include strategies, actions, lead agencies, timeframes, resource implications and key performance criteria.

  1. Gather feedback and consultation on the draft plan and review.
  2. Implement the plan. Council can then endorse the plan to assist with the allocation of resources for its implementation.

Council can endorse and deliver outcomes by:

  • engaging with local councillors from the beginning
  • meeting with departmental staff and councillors to raise awareness about physical activity issues and their relevance
  • conducting a staff event (such as a pedometer challenge) while the physical activity plan is being developed to encourage interest and participation in physical activity
  • developing the plan so that council is a facilitator rather than a provider of all of the strategies and actions
  • acting as a champion for physical activity and advocating within the council and the community.

Council can resource the plan by:

  • talking to senior managers to obtain a dedicated budget for the planning process and the plan’s subsequent implementation
  • having an elected member chair the working group or committee
  • allocating activities such as tasks and timelines to departments within council
  • involving management in the working group or committee. Attendance at meetings can lead to financial or staffing commitment
  • seeking external funding or match funding. Where possible, combine council and external agency resources
  • linking physical activity plan objectives to the council’s corporate plan. This leads to the council directing departments to participate.

Top ten tips for an effective physical activity plan include:

  1. involve the council and community earlier rather than later and identify champions
  2. set realistic timelines for research, consultation, writing and obtaining council endorsement of the plan
  3. plan ahead – write a brief that reflects what you want to achieve from the plan
  4. check credentials and other products from consultants before employing their services
  5. provide feedback to community members and agencies involved in consultation processes
  6. keep the working group involved
  7. keep the staff and elected members informed throughout the process
  8. ensure council staff manage and stay involved in the project
  9. allow for appropriate levels of resourcing
  10. celebrate and promote achievements and success.

Other sources of information