Community, Nonprofit, and Faith-based Organizations

What’s Your Role?

Community, Nonprofit, and Faith-based Organizations

Community, Nonprofit, and Faith-based Organizations

What’s Your Role?

Community, Nonprofit, and Faith-based Organizations

Community, Nonprofit, and Faith-based Organizations

As a professional working in a community, nonprofit, or faith-based organization, you can help promote safe, equitable, and inclusive access to physical activity and share messages about physical activity.

Community, nonprofit, and faith-based organizations differ in size, mission, and reach. They interact with all areas of American life and can play an important role in making it easier for people to be physically active.

Because of their reach and trusted relationships with their communities, these organizations can promote physical activity in many ways. Some have facilities that can be used for physical activity. Some can develop education programs and share information about the benefits of being active and creating activity-friendly communities. Others can help share messages with specific groups, like people from racial and ethnic minority groups, people with lower incomes, children and adolescents, older adults, LGBTQ+ communities, or people with disabilities.

What Can You Do?

You can use the following strategies to encourage physical activity in your community.

Promote community programs and policies that make it safe and easy to walk, bike, wheelchair roll, and be physically active for people of all ages and abilities.

  • Offer free or low-cost programs for young people and adults that address barriers to physical activity and meet the needs of the community. Modify programs as needed to address issues such as safety concerns, cultural preferences, costs, and inclusion for people with disabilities.
  • Set up groups, buddy systems, and other forms of social support for walking that provide regular opportunities to be active each week.
  • Promote the availability of safe, convenient, and well-designed community locations and programs that promote physical activity in the areas you serve.
  • Set up formal policies or agreements, such as shared-use agreements, that expand physical activity options for communities. For example, you can open your facilities to community residents outside of normal operating hours.
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Educate people about the benefits of safe physical activity and places to be active.

  • Encourage people to meet national physical activity guidelines and recommend ways to add more physical activity to their day. There are many ways to be physically active outside of a gym—such as taking a walk, dancing, roller skating, or doing household chores.
  • Provide information about the physical and mental benefits of regular physical activity.
  • Share the location of local parks, trails, and greenways where people can be physically active.

Promote community plans and policies to design areas that support safe, easy places for people to walk, bike, wheelchair roll, and be physically active.

  • Join coalitions and planning processes to influence community designs and development decisions in the areas you serve.
  • Work with other sectors to help mobilize community members to provide input during project planning to ensure that safety, access, and design decisions match local community needs.
  • Lead or join a walk audit to help identify places in your community that need improvements to make them activity-friendly.
  • Support transportation and land use policies and plans—like Complete Streets and updated zoning—that encourage physical activity by creating safe streets, sidewalks, and places to go.
  • Build your facilities within walkable or bikeable distances of homes and other places used regularly by your staff and the people you serve.
Want more proven ways to increase physical activity?

Active People, Healthy NationSM has many strategies that work. Visit the website to find options that fit your needs. Look for ways to collaborate with other sectors.

Develop effective and consistent messages to promote physical activity.

  • Share messages and materials to increase awareness and knowledge about physical activity. Visit CDC’s State and Community Health Media Center to find free or low-cost, audience-tested campaign and advertising materials to support your efforts.
  • Tailor messages and activities to the people you serve.
  • Consider health equity and inclusive communication principles when developing messages designed to address physical activity-related health disparities. For ideas, see Framing Guidance: Equitable Physical Activity [PDF-195KB].
  • Use multiple communication channels to encourage people in your community to be physically active and market physical activity in a way that resonates with your audience. You can share messages through videos, apps, social media posts, and online newsletters, as well as through ads on local television and radio stations, in newspapers, and on billboards and buses.
Seniors walking at park

What Other Organizations Are Doing

These community, nonprofit, and faith-based organizations are using effective strategies to increase physical activity in their communities.

Community Partners Work to Make Streets Safer in Missouri
A partnership between nonprofit and community organizations, community members, and the city of St. Louis led to traffic-calming demonstration projects in four neighborhoods, affecting more than 12,000 people. The projects helped educate residents and community leaders about possible solutions to slow traffic and make streets safer for people to walk, wheelchair roll, or bike. The partnership included the American Planning Association’s Missouri Chapter, Trailnet, and the HEAL Partnership. The group also created a how-to guide to help other communities set up their own demonstration projects.

Nonprofit Organizations Help People Walk and Bike More in South Dakota
Residents and community partners in Wanblee, South Dakota, got help from two national organizations to make their town more activity-friendly. The project was made possible by a collaboration between America Walks’ national Walking College program and AARP’s Livable Communities initiative. During the 18-week project, fellows in the Walking College program learned about walkable community design and created walkability action plans to help make their communities safer and more accessible for pedestrians. One of the fellows worked directly with residents in Wanblee, which is part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and home to 940 people. Activities included sponsoring local programs and events, conducting a walk audit, and installing bike racks and a bike repair station.

Churches and Coalitions Help Congregants Make Healthy Choices in Rural Tennessee
In rural Tennessee, focus groups in four counties identified the faith-based community as a potential source of influence to help reduce high obesity rates among residents. In response, coalitions of community leaders partnered with 15 area churches to promote nutrition and physical activity among their congregants. Activities included providing exercise and sports supplies to increase access to physical activity. More than 1,400 people have benefited from these efforts.

Resources to Help You

Communication Tools

  • Active People, Healthy Nation Multimedia Tools
    The resources on this website can be used to promote physical activity and motivate people to integrate more activity into their lives and communities.
  • Communication Materials Resources
    This website provides communication resources that chronic disease prevention and health promotion programs can use to guide and support their efforts.
  • State and Community Health Media Center
    The Media Center is a collection of free or low-cost, audience-tested campaign and advertising materials, including print ads, posters, videos, and photos. Materials are available in English and other languages. They can be used to support programs focused on chronic disease prevention and other topics.
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