Home All Celebrating a Great IDEA® (Part 1)

Celebrating a Great IDEA® (Part 1)

written by Elaine O'Brien 31 May 2012
Elaine leading Senior Fitness Dancers

Elaine O'Brien, PhD, MAPP '08, is a positive psychology, fitness leadership, positive health promotion, movement science, aging, and well-being speaker, author, trainer, thought leader, people/project manager, educator, and consultant. Elaine creates programs promoting proactive positive health/fitness, and optimal performance. Elaine presents internationally and online. She advances health, fitness, and flourishing by inspiring people to move more and to find both enjoyment and meaning in motion via PEP: Positive Exercise Practices. Elaine's website.  Full bio. Elaine's articles are here.

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical exercise save it and preserve it.” – Plato

The promotion of health is a positive and proactive measure that is in line with Martin Seligman’s vision of increasing the number of people flourishing in the world to 51% by the year 2051. According to Ray Fowler, physical activity interventions build on the constructive synchronicity between Positive Psychology and Positive Health. Increasing levels of physical activity buoys us up and moves us toward thriving, while inactivity and sedentary living foster languishing, ill health, and disease.

Elaine leading Senior Fitness Dancers

Elaine leading Senior Fitness Dancers

Mutrie and Faulkner discuss ways that physical activity can lead us to flourishing lives. Exercise improves our self-perception, builds proprioception, increases confidence, and helps us feel good. Exercise, a necessary and beneficial part of self-care also enriches our cognitive, neural, and executive function.

According to Tal Ben-Shahar, “Exercise feels good, enhances self-esteem, induces calm, improves thinking, makes you feel more attractive, has virtually no negative side effects, is legal, and is free.” Exercise can also boost our positive resources such as social capital, further improving the quality of our lives.
Shining Lights

“Transformative leadership is a dynamic process in which you not only influence the group, but the group influences you.” – Rainer Martins (1987, p. 44)

Guiding forces in the health, wellness, and fitness industry, Kathie and Peter Davis are the harmoniously passionate founders and visionaries of IDEA Health and Fitness Association. With a focus on optimism, appreciation, integrity, core values, and positive transformation, Kathie and Peter have set a standard for excellence since 1982. IDEA leads the way for the world’s professionals. Offering health and fitness educational opportunities, career development programs, and industry leadership, while helping fitness leaders globally enhance the quality of life worldwide through safe, effective lifestyle and fitness programs, IDEA is celebrating its 30 year anniversary of transformative leadership this summer.

According to Kathie, “Our vision, in 1982, was to create an organization that helped fitness professionals around the world achieve greater education and to provide reliable professional information, tools, and resources for career development. There was no organization at the time to help with safety concerns, provide liability insurance, give business information, or anything else related to a fitness professional’s career.” IDEA serves members who are personal trainers, group-exercise instructors, program directors/managers and business owners. Kathie says about the early days, “We focused on providing practical information that was based on science. We never dreamed it would expand to where we are today… We are grateful for the incredible experiences and people we have met along the way.”

Peter & Kathie Davis

Peter & Kathie Davis

The IDEA Mission

Now IDEA has over 65,000 members/subscribers in 80 countries worldwide and growing. The mission has evolved along with the organization. Peter Davis shares, “When we first got started, we were focused on helping fitness instructors/professionals to become more successful. In the last 10 years, we came up with the purpose, ‘Inspire the world to fitness.’ This last year, we have actually expanded to ‘Inspire the world to fitness and wellness.’ That has become a real rallying cry.”

According to Peter, “Fitness professionals focused mostly on the body for the first 25 years. What we at IDEA have tried to do in the last few years, is to encourage fitness leaders to understand the mind, the body, and the spirit together in a wholeness model. With the wholeness model, we can inspire wellness and positive transformation.”

In part, IDEA’s success and impact is based on the appreciative nature and inclusion of its leadership. Peter shares, “I think that IDEA has always served as this unbiased community of fitness professionals where, because we don’t certify, we work with a lot of the different organizations. I think the fact that we have had this community of people where it didn’t matter who you were certified by, and you could come together to have one central mission of ‘Inspire the world to fitness and wellness’ has been probably, our greatest asset. This community has turned into a group that has a mission to help the world become a healthier and happier place.”

Discussing the early growth of IDEA further, Peter chuckled, “When we started, we were just a little newsletter and at the time we didn’t really know what was going to happen. This was 30 years ago. Kathie and I started IDEA out of our house. I was the men’s tennis coach at University of California, San Diego, and Kathie was an executive of a small aerobics company. We really wanted to create an association where fitness professionals could learn from each other, as well as learn from the experts. We wanted to help them. Thirty years ago we had 1000 members and a 16-page newsletter, and today we have the IDEA FitnessConnect industry directory where we have 250,000 professionals and 25,000 clubs listed, the award-winning IDEA Fitness Journal, and international conferences to serve our members. We would have never in a million years thought it would be where it is today!” Kathie and Peter helped shape a vital new industry.

Reframing Health and Fitness

Looking forward, Peter has more new ideas, "One of the things we are working on and are writing about is how it would be great if we could get fitness professionals to reframe what health and fitness are about, and how important health and fitness are in the pursuit of happiness. So I think in reframing fitness, we need to understand, if you don’t have your health, you can’t get to happiness. We see that as part of the journey. We’d like to help people start to think in a positive way so that they can be inspired to make those healthier behavioral changes. I have felt, forever, that fitness was too much of a physical science and didn’t put enough into the wholeness approach."

On the forefront of health, fitness and wellness innovation, IDEA recently announced expansion of a free digital publication: IDEA Food & Nutrition Tips is a bimonthly e-newsletter that focuses primarily on practical “how-to” aspects of food, cooking and nutrition, weight loss, nutrition research/science, whole foods and sports nutrition. The e-newsletter also includes a healthy recipes feature that incorporates video demonstrations. This new IDEA publication was launched after a July 2011 IDEA Fitness Journal readership survey indicated 77% of the association’s membership regularly provides some sort of nutrition service to clients. Kathie shares, “IDEA is committed to bringing whole-food and nutrition education to the professional fitness and wellness community. We also are focused on helping consumers who are actively seeking evidence-based information to help them reach their overall fitness and nutritional wellness goals.” You can sign up for the free newsletter.

Athlete Cody McCasland

Supporting the Challenged Athletes Foundation

Kathie and Peter’s latest humanitarian partnership is with the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). CAF’s mission is “to provide opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so that they can pursue active lifestyles through physical activity and competitive athletics. CAF believes that involvement in sports at any level increases self-esteem, independence, and quality of life.” IDEA will match up to $10,000 to pay for a prosthetic limb for a challenged athlete, Timur Normatov, a 9-year old boy who lives with his family in Parkent, Uzbekistan. His American sponsor found Timur, who has congenital above-knee leg loss. Timur had been given up for adoption because of the leg defect. On his application, Timur wrote about his motivation for wanting a running leg, “I want to be able to play with other kids and I want to run. I like to run but I fall down all the time. Other children laugh at me. When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.” Kathie and Peter invite you to help the dreams of Timur and other challenged athletes come true through Team IDEA for CAF. Kathie and Peter Davis demonstrate how physical activity can indeed lead us to better health, greater love, positivity, and humanity.

IDEA Health & Fitness Association will celebrate its 30th anniversary at the 2012 IDEA World Fitness Convention, July 5th – 8th, in San Diego, CA. The four-day extravaganza will bring together thousands of the industry’s influential professionals, leaders, and educators to reflect on the continued evolution of the health, wellness, and fitness industry.


Ray Fowler, personal communication, 2008

Tal Ben-Shahar, personal communication, 2008

Martens, R. (1987). Coaches Guide to Sport Psychology. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics.

Mutrie, N. & Faulkner, G. (2004). Physical activity: Positive psychology in motion. In In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.). Positive Psychology in Practice. pp. pp 146-164. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley

Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Free Press.


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Louis Alloro 31 May 2012 - 8:46 pm

Beautiful article, Elaine. A great reminder of the need for physical activity. I remember a research study Chris Peterson once shared about fitness clubs — those who join with friends/family or the ones who take group fitness classes are more inclined to rejoin the next year. Communitas!

I know humility is a strength of yours – but you forgot to mention in this piece that YOU were chosen to present at this year’s IDEA conference. WOhoo! What is your abstract?

Elaine O'Brien 14 June 2012 - 8:46 pm

Louis! Thanks for embodying and modeling wellbeing and fitness so beautifully in your life. It was great seeing the still shot of you in Yoga class on the “Today” show today. I loved training with you and Sherri at your positive psychology presentation with Patricia Moreno in New York City. Intensati! Kudos! Yes communitas. My research area lies in the domains of positive psychology, enjoyable movement/activity as “Positive Exercise Practices” and group health, fitness and wellbeing. I love the potential implications for us as individuals, groups and a society.

Finally, yes I will be presenting at Inner IDEA, and will be featured in the September issue of IDEA Fitness Journal and part 2 of Mary Monroe’s article on Happiness. More to come…

Blessings and thanks so much for posting your delightful comment, Louis!

Adele Byrne 17 June 2012 - 6:23 am

Hi Elaine,
It has been a pleasure going to your Senior Fitness classes. You challenge us every time , yet you always emphasize that we can modulate the exercise according to what we feel we can do that day. Your encouragement is very helpful to us . Many of us have lost our husbands and we need the comaraderie of your group. We`ve made friendships and feel as though our day has started in a real positive way.
Love always, Dellie

Elaine O'Brien 18 June 2012 - 6:43 pm

Dellie, I am inspired by your faith, love, service, friendship and sense of fun! You are a gift. What a pleasure it is training with you & our delightful groups. I am honored to have you in my classes and thank you and our lively and lovely crew for your awesome commitment to self & other care. Be blessed and thank you for writing. Love, Elaine


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