Spring into Action!
As the days become longer and the weather starts to warm, people of all ages will get a chance to spring into action! Spring is a great time to breathe fresh air, stretch your limbs, and engage in physical activities outdoors.
Lack of physical activity contributes to obesity, heart disease, stroke, and other chronic health conditions. While many factors contribute to this, one common hurdle preventing people from enjoying outdoor activities in their neighborhood is access to places and spaces that are designed for safe, active living. Many communities are built in ways that make it difficult or unsafe to be physically active. Access to parks and recreation centers may be difficult. Safe routes for walking or biking to school, work, or playgrounds may not exist. In many neighborhoods across the country, walking, running, and biking can be dangerous due to heavy traffic. And if communities lack crosswalks, sidewalks, and bicycle facilities, it is harder for people walk, run, bike, or play, especially in underserved areas such as rural frontiers or inner-cities.
A number of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) programs are helping communities prevent or reduce chronic diseases. A significant component of the Community Transformation Grants (CTG) and Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) programs is promoting opportunities for outdoor activity. Efforts to create and increase places for physical activity are supported by local businesses, school districts, community-based organizations, and other partners across the country.
Access to More Places
There are a number of proven ways to add places and spaces for physical activity. Community members have found simple solutions to make healthy living easier. While some people may not live within walking distance of a park or are unable to afford exercise equipment or a gym membership, local recreational buildings are often convenient. If recreational facilities are closed off, especially in areas where physical activity is a challenge, many children and families may struggle to include fun activities into their daily routines.
Shared spaces or Joint Use agreements can reduce this barrier to physical activity. In Florida, Broward County has expanded many of its open spaces to help residents be active. These spaces, such as school fields or playgrounds, were closed to the community after hours. The Broward County Health Department’s Joint Use Agreements now makes physical activity accessible by providing residents with safe, convenient, and inviting places to exercise and play.
Transportation and Land-use
Communities can examine how their streets, public spaces, and neighborhoods are designed. Communities can increase safety with improved access to public transportation and better street lighting, street crossings, and sidewalks. Studies show higher physical activity rates in areas where residents are able to walk and bicycle to common places. More than 145 million adults now include walking as part of a physically active lifestyle. And recent research suggests that two out of three adults support street design improvements that make walking and biking easier in their neighborhoods.
Communities also are developing new and improved ways of getting people outside and moving. Under CPPW program, the Tri-County Health Department of Colorado established the "Flat 14ers." This program encourages individuals, schools, and work sites to increase their level of physical activity by climbing virtual mountain peaks. Northside Minneapolis, Minnesota, another CPPW community and home to some of the highest rates of obesity in the city, now has the nations’ largest bike sharing program, "Nice Ride," with 11 new kiosks to help promote a biking/walking culture for exercise and transit. The kiosk locations are placed in areas with high chronic disease rates. Minneapolis’s investments in infrastructure and programs have helped double the number of bicycle commuters without increasing crashes.
There is no single solution to combating chronic diseases. We need broad and ongoing efforts to get people outside and moving. State governments, businesses, and communities can work together to rebuild neighborhoods into places that make physical activity safe and easy for everyone.
The following web sites offer great resources on how to reduce or prevent chronic diseases and chronic conditions by increasing healthy eating and physical activity, and reducing exposure to tobacco.
For more information about ways communities can make healthier community planning, transportation, and land-use decisions visit http://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/.
The Community Transformation Grant Program is dedicated to making healthy living easier where Americans live, learn, work, and play. To find out about a CTG community near you, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/communitytransformation/funds/index.htm.
The Communities Putting Prevention to Work Program is a locally driven initiative supporting 50 communities to tackle obesity and tobacco use. To learn more, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/communitiesputtingpreventiontowork/.
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