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How to Write and Submit A Feature Article to ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®

ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: May/June 2018 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - p 22-28
doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000389
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Have you ever thought about writing a feature article for ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®? If you answered “yes” or “maybe” — keep reading! This article is designed to make the process of writing and submitting a feature article as simple as possible.

For starters, ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® is written for exercise leaders, personal trainers, health/fitness instructors, rehabilitation specialists, exercise physiologists, clinical exercise physiologists, health/fitness directors, and the like. Basically, for anyone who works on the applied side of health fitness and/or exercise science. All feature articles must provide practical, timely information that is of immediate use to practitioners. Please note that ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® does not publish studies and/or original research because these types of articles are not compatible with our readers’ interests. Finally, all feature submissions will undergo peer review that will enhance the quality and readability of your article and help our editorial staff determine its suitability for publication.

ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® is always on the lookout for features written about exercise and fitness, nutrition, professional development, fitness trends, special populations, lifestyle medicine, and the like. If you have an idea about a feature article topic that you would like to run past the Journal’s editors for feedback, simply send the idea via email to [email protected].

Once you have secured your feature topic, the next step is to write a draft following the Journal’s Instructions to Authors. The full instructional document can be downloaded here: It is recommended that you read the instructions before beginning work on the article. For simplicity, we will break up the feature article writing process into six specific portions:

  • Title page and additional elements
  • Manuscript body
  • References and recommended readings
  • Tables, figures, and supplemental digital content
  • Continuing education credit questions and answers
  • Submitting your article


The title page should be quick and easy to pull together, especially with the following checklist. Make sure your article’s title page includes:

  • * Names of all authors (indicate professional degrees and ACSM affiliations)
  • * Each author’s institutional affiliation, phone number, and email address
  • * One designated corresponding author and his or her complete contact information (mailing address, telephone number, and email address)
  • * Five keywords or phrases for indexing
  • * Word count (feature articles run approximately 2,200 to 2,600 words)
  • * Any potential conflict of interest and sources of funding (e.g., from National Institutes of Health (NIH), Wellcome Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), or others).
    • If authors do not have any funding disclosures or conflicts of interest, clearly state (i.e., Funding Disclosures/conflicts of interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest and do not have any financial disclosures.)
  • * A brief description (75 words or less) of each author’s research and professional activities (bio). For example, “Joanne Smith, Ph.D., FACSM, is an assistant professor of exercise physiology at Flex & Stretch University where her research focuses on the role that physical fitness plays in intellectual development.” (You also will need a headshot photo for each author, but these photos will be uploaded into Editorial Manager directly with your manuscript files and will not appear on the title page. More to come on that later.)

In addition to the title page, the Journal asks its authors to provide five additional elements that are used throughout the published version of the article to help improve reader engagement and enhance the reader experience (Figures 1–4). After your title page, please include the following in your manuscript:

Figure 1:
This is an example of Apply It! text. Apply It! appears on the first page of the published article and should include two to four bullet points that tell the reader how he or she will be able to apply the information in the article to his or her daily work.
Figure 2:
This is an example of Bridging the Gap text. Bridging the Gap appears at the end of the published article and is a three- to four-sentence highlight of the main points of the feature that offers an article recap to readers.
Figure 3:
This is an example of Summary Statement text. The Summary Statement appears on the table of contents introducing the published article to readers. This is a short, one- to two-sentence description of the article used to draw the reader in to reading the full article. This text also may be used on social media platforms to promote the article.
Figure 4:
This is an example of a Pulled Text Graphic. Pulled Text Graphics are used to break up the monotony of pages full of just text and work to draw the reader into the article. Authors are asked to provide three brief sections of text (1–3 sentences each) that could be used to create a Pulled Text Graphic within his or her article.
  • *Apply It!: two to four bullet points that tell the reader how he or she will be able to apply the information in the article to his or her daily work.
  • * Bridging the Gap: a three- to four-sentence highlight of the main points of the feature. In the published article, this will appear at the end of the article to give a recap to readers.
  • * Summary Statement: a short, one- to two-sentence summary of the article to be included in the Table of Contents and to be used to promote the article on various social media platforms.
  • * Pulled text: Provide three brief sections of text (1–3 sentences each) that could be used as a pulled quote graphic to draw the reader into your piece if it is published.
  • * Manuscript pages should be numbered in the lower right corner


Let’s move on to the meat of the paper! Feature articles should be approximately 2,200 to 2,600 words. This count does not include the title page, additional elements, tables, figures, or references. Try to add value for the reader by reporting little-known facts, making substantiated recommendations, using photographs, sidebars, illustrations, case studies, and summaries.

The following tips will help you understand and write according to the style of the Journal:

  • Use figures for all numbers higher than nine (e.g., 10, 25). Write out numbers between zero and nine unless they are in a table or followed by a percentage sign. When using percentages, always use the numeral and the percentage sign (e.g., 10%).
  • Abbreviations are acceptable if the reader is told at first mention what the abbreviation means. For example, "Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend…"
  • Active voice should be used as often as possible.
  • Use statistics to add credibility to the article. But do not let statistics speak for themselves. Interpret the figures and make their implications clear.
  • Break up the article visually with illustrations, sidebars, etc. Use bullets, checklists, and other graphic devices to help distinguish the important points.
  • If possible, supply photos to illustrate or enhance the article, and choose photos that could be used on the Journal’s cover should it be selected as the featured article. These photos cannot be copyrighted by another journal or magazine. Please have each person in the photo sign a model release form and submit it with your manuscript. The model release form can be found at under Files & Resources. (If you do not have photos to submit with your work, the Journal will select stock photos to use. You will be able to review all photo selections at first-page proofs.)


References should be selective. Authors should limit the number of citations to 10 to 12, plus recommended readings, if appropriate. An important change regarding references, which occurred in January, was the switch from alphabetical order to order of appearance. This change was made to make reference formatting easier for our authors using a reference management program such as EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley, etc. If using a reference management program, be sure to select the National Library of Medicine (NLM) option. Please take note of the following when preparing your references:

  • References should be listed in order of appearance, numbered, and cited in the text by numbers. In-text reference numbers should be at baseline, roman, and in parentheses (i.e., (1,2,3).
  • Journal abbreviations should follow the abbreviations of Index Medicus published by the Library of Congress. You can search here for journal abbreviations:
  • Use et al. only if there are more than seven authors named. In these instances, list only the first three authors followed by et al. If fewer than seven authors are listed, all authors should be listed in the citation.
  • References should follow the NLM style for all references. Use examples below.

Reference Examples

  1. Book
    • [entire source] Cohen J. Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. 2nd ed. Hillsdale (NJ): Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; 1988. 567 p.
    • [specific chapter] Paffenbarger RS, Hyde RT, Wing AL. Physical activity and physical fitness as determinants of health and longevity. In: Bouchard C, Shephard RJ, Stephens T, Sutton JR, McPherson BD, editors. Exercise, Fitness, and Health. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 1990. p. 33–48.
  2. Conference Proceedings—Matthie JR, Withers PO, Van Loan MD, Mayclin PL. Development of a commercial complex bio-impedance spectroscopic (CBIS) system for determining intracellular water (ICW) and extracellular water (ECW) volumes. In: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Electrical Bio-impedance; 1992 Jul 28–31: Kuopio (Finland). University of Kuopio; 1992. p. 203–5.
  3. Doctoral Dissertation—Crandall C. Alterations in human baroreceptor reflex regulation of blood pressure following 15 days of simulated microgravity exposure [dissertation]. Fort Worth (TX): University of North Texas; 1993. 100 p.
  4. Government Report—U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2004. 436 p. Available from: U.S. GPO, Washington.
  5. Journal Article—Blair SN, Ellsworth NM, Haskell WL, Stern MP, Farquhar JW, Wood PD. Comparison of nutrient intake in middle-aged men and women runners and controls. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1981;13(5):310–5.
  6. E-Journal Article—Vickers AJ. Time course of muscle soreness following different types of exercise. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders [Internet]. 2001 [cited May 31, 2001];2(5). Available from: doi:10.1186/1471-2474-2-5.
  7. Web site home page—American Heart Association Web site [Internet]. Dallas (TX): American Heart Association; [cited 2006 January 1]. Available from:

In addition to references, the author may include recommended readings related to his or her feature article. Recommended readings are not cited within the text, but serve to help grow the reader’s knowledge on the topic discussed within the feature article. Authors who wish to include recommended readings with their feature should:

  • List recommended readings alphabetically by primary author’s last name. Follow NLM formatting as with references (see previous).
  • List recommended readings with a bullet point rather than a number. This list should appear after the reference list in the manuscript.


The most important thing authors should know about tables and figures is that each table and each figure should be a separate document and not embedded in the manuscript. This will save time when uploading your files into Editorial Manager for submission.


Double space each table in a separate Microsoft Word file. Each table should be loaded separately into Editorial Manager (i.e., Table 1, Table 2). If there is only one table, it should simply be listed as “Table”. Do not embed commands for rows or columns or any other special formatting commands in the manuscript. Use the TAB key to align words, numbers, etc. Indicate desired placement in the manuscript for each table (e.g., place Table 3 here.) Supply a legend for each. Place explanatory material below the table, not in table heading.


As with tables, each figure should be in a separate file. If there is only one figure, it should simply be listed as “Figure”. Each figure also should have a caption. Indicate desired placement in the manuscript for each figure (e.g., place Figure 1 here.) Here are the basics to have in place before submitting your digital art to ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®:

  • Artwork should be saved as TIFF, EPS, or MS Office (DOC, PPT, XLS) files. High-resolution PDF files also are acceptable.
  • Crop out any white or black space surrounding the image.
  • Diagrams, drawings, graphs, and other line art must be vector or saved at a resolution of at least 1200 dpi. If created in an MS Office program, send the native (DOC, PPT, XLS) file.
  • Photographs, radiographs, and other halftone images must be saved at a resolution of at least 300 dpi.
  • Photographs and radiographs with text must be saved as postscript or at a resolution of at least 600 dpi.
  • Figures should not be embedded in the manuscript text file.
  • Learn about the publication requirements for digital artwork:

General tips and reminders regarding tables and figures include the following:

  • Cite figures consecutively in your manuscript.
  • Number figures in the figure legend in the order in which they are discussed.
  • Upload figures consecutively to the Editorial Manager Web site and enter figure numbers consecutively in the Description field when uploading the files. Each figure must be accompanied by a caption or legend.


If any item (figure, table, photo) has been previously published, a letter of permission from the copyright holder (usually the publisher or the author) is required. Permission must be obtained even if the material is the author’s own work. This applies to all items that are being reprinted or adapted. To obtain permission, find the journal and/or publisher’s Web site and search for permission instructions. Indicate permission at the bottom of the table, figure, photo, etc.

When permission is needed for a previously published figure or table, use this format:

  • (Adapted or reprinted from (reference number). Copyright © 2017 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Used with permission.)

If permission to adapt or reprint is not necessary (e.g., public domain documents, government files, etc.) use this format:

  • (Figure courtesy of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, Alexandria, VA.)

Supplemental Digital Content

A key growth area of the Journal is to encourage authors to submit supplemental digital content with their article submission. Vanessa Kercher, Ph.D., is serving as our digital content editor ([email protected]) and is available to assist you with supplemental digital content (SDC) development. SDC may include video or audio files as well as standard media such as text documents or large tables and figures. Please note that SDC should not include cover letters to the editor, forms required by the editorial office, or items required in the manuscript file. Any SDC item will be available online only and will be connected to the published article via Web link.

SDC Callouts

Supplemental digital content must be cited consecutively in the text of the submitted manuscript. Citations should include the type of material submitted (audio, figure, table, etc.), be clearly labeled as “Supplemental Digital Content,” include the sequential list number, and provide a description of the supplemental content. All descriptive text should be included in the callout because it will not appear elsewhere in the article.

Example: We performed many tests on the degrees of flexibility in the elbow (see Video, Supplemental Digital Content 1, which demonstrates elbow flexibility) and found our results inconclusive.

List of Supplemental Digital Content

A listing of SDC must be submitted at the end of the manuscript file. Include the SDC number and file type of the SDC. This text will be removed by our production staff and not be published. Example: Supplemental Digital Content 1.wmv

SDC File Requirements

All acceptable file types are permissible up to 10 MB. For audio or video files greater than 10 MB, authors should first query the Journal office for approval at [email protected]. For a list of all available file types and detailed instructions, please visit

Video Abstract

After an article has been accepted for publication, authors are asked to prepare a video abstract and submit this digital file along with the final draft of the manuscript. Guidelines for preparation of the video abstract can be found here: Sample video abstracts can be found here:


Each feature submission also must include 8 to 10 multiple-choice continuing education credit (CEC) questions. The CEC test is an “open book” online test to ensure that the reader has read and comprehends the article. The questions should require that the reader reread the article for details or data. Answers to all questions must be found in the article. It is assumed that everyone taking the test will pass. The questions are designed to assist the reader in gaining a clear understanding of the information presented.

  1. Questions should be multiple choice with four or five choices, but only one correct answer per question.
  2. Indicate correct answer to each question by placing three (3) asterisks after the proper answer. Please also note where the answer can be found within the original text, i.e., (page 2; paragraph 3).
  3. There may be one or two true and false questions, although these are not encouraged.
  4. See example taken from an expired test under the Author’s Resources section:


Once you have your manuscript files ready, it is time to submit your feature through the Journal’s manuscript management system, Editorial Manager, at If you have submitted or reviewed an article for any ACSM journal, you are already registered in Editorial Manager. In that case, you can go to click the log-in button from the menu at the top of the page and enter your username and password. You will log into the system as an author (Figure 5).

Figure 5:
Offers a visual of the manuscript management system Editorial Manager®, which is used for submission of all manuscripts to ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®.

For first-time users, go to, click the Register button at the top of the page, and enter the requested information. Registrants will receive an e-mail indicating user name and password. Note: New users receiving an email with an assigned user ID and password, and repeat users need not register again even if user role changes (i.e., author, reviewer, editor).

Once you are logged in as an author, follow the next steps to submit your article:

  • Click on “Submit New Manuscript”.
  • From the “Choose Article Type” drop-down menu, select “Feature Article” and click “Next.”
  • Enter your full manuscript title (limit, 100 characters) and your short title (limit, 45 characters), and then click “Next.”
  • Add any coauthors you have on the article, be sure to include first and last names, academic degrees, affiliation, and email address for each author. Once all authors have been added, click “Next.”
  • Add any current funding sources for this work. Once complete, click “Next.” If there are no funding disclosures, simply click “Next.”
  • Copy and paste the summary statement from your article into the box for submitting an abstract, and click “Next.”
  • Enter five keywords or phrases separated by semicolons, then click “Next.”
  • Click “Select Classification” and click on a category that best matches the topic area of your article. Click “Add” and “Submit,” then “Next.”
  • Read through and answer all the questions on the copyright transfer form. (A link to this form also will be sent to each coauthor on the article for completing once the manuscript is submitted. Once complete, click “Next.”
  • Enter any comments you have for the editorial staff regarding your submission. Once complete or if you do not have any comments, click “Next.”
  • Choose your region from the drop-down menu and click “Next.”
  • On the “Attach Files” page, you will upload all the files you have previously created. Using the drop-down menu under “Item,” select “Manuscript” (all manuscript text pages in MS Word format, including references and figure legends). Click “Choose Files,” locate your manuscript file, and click “Open” to upload the file.
  • Using the drop-down menu under “Item,” select “Continuing Education Credit Q & A.” Click “Choose Files,” locate your CEC quiz file, and click “Open” to upload the file.
  • Complete the same steps to upload “Author headshot,” “Photos,” “Letter of Permission,” “Table,” “Figure,” and “SDC,” if applicable. Please note that each author headshot photo, photo, table, figure, and SDC will need to be uploaded separately. So, if you have three tables, you will need to upload Table 1, Table 2, and Table 3.
  • Once all files are loaded into Editorial Manager, click “Next” then click “Next” again. Click “Build PDF for My Approval.” Then click on “Submissions Waiting for Author’s Approval.” Wait for Editorial Manager to build your PDF. Once ready, click on “Action Links” and then “View Submission.”
  • Review submission. If all looks OK, click “Approve Submission” (this transfers the article to the Journals editorial office staff). If edits or changes are needed, click “Edit Submission,” and make necessary changes and repeat the aforementioned steps until the submission is approved.
  • If you have any concerns or questions regarding Editorial Manager, send them to [email protected].

Once your feature is submitted to ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®, the article will first be reviewed to make sure it meets the Journals requirements and contains the necessary components. If it does not, the corresponding author will be contacted for additional materials and/or edits. Next, the article will be entered into the peer review process. Peer review takes approximately 4 to 6 weeks. Once the reviewers’ comments are received and reviewed, the Journals editor-in-chief will issue a decision of either revise, accept, or reject. If a revise decision is issued, instructions and the reviewers’ comments will be included in the decision letter along with a deadline. If an accept decision is issued, the corresponding author will be contacted regarding an issue for publication and will be notified of the page proof deadline. If a reject decision is issued, the author will be notified of why the article did not make it into publication. For all accepted articles, electronic page proofs will be provided via email to the corresponding author by the publisher’s journal production editor. Authors will have 48 hours to review and return any edits to the journal production editor.

The editorial staff is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET to assist with questions you may have at [email protected]. We hope this article has been helpful and that you will prepare and submit your feature article for publication consideration today.


This article is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a feature article for ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®. The article walks readers through the writing and submission process in an effort to make this as simple as possible.


Editorial Manager; Feature Article; Instructions; Peer Review; Publication

Supplemental Digital Content

© 2018 American College of Sports Medicine.