What’s Your Role?


Government Icon

What’s Your Role?


Government Icon

As a government official or tribal leader, you can play an important role in promoting and increasing physical activity in your community.

Physical activity is one of the best things people can do for their health. You can take specific actions to help create or expand opportunities for physical activity in your community.

These actions can include planning and designing spaces and places that allow people of all ages and abilities to be active. Well-designed communities give people more options to get to the places they need to go, such as by walking, biking, wheelchair rolling, or using public transit.

Making your community more activity-friendly can also help improve the local economy, increase employment opportunities, support neighborhood revitalization, and reduce health care costs.

What Can You Do?

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

Design communities that support safe and easy places for people to walk, bike, wheelchair roll, and be physically active.

  • Adopt community planning, land use, development, and zoning policies that support walking and other forms of physical activity for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Locate homes, schools, worksites, parks, recreational facilities, and other places that people regularly use within walkable distance of each other.
  • Support safe, efficient, and easy-to-use public transit systems and transit-oriented development.
  • Provide safe and convenient access for all people to use community facilities that support walking and other forms of physical activity, such as walking trails, parks, and recreational activities.

Promote community programs and policies that make it safe and easy for people to be physically active.

  • Promote the availability of safe, convenient, and well-designed community locations and programs that support physical activity.
  • Offer programs that address barriers to physical activity, including physical limitations and safety concerns.
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Work with other sectors to develop effective and consistent messages and promote them through the media.

  • Provide public education and awareness campaigns to promote walking and walkability.
  • Link these campaigns to other activities designed to increase walking.
  • Tailor campaign messages and activities to specific audiences.
  • Use multiple communication channels, including both mainstream and social media outlets and emerging technologies such as talking apps and video games.
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.

What Other Organizations Are Doing

boy riding bike in bike lane

These government officials are using effective strategies to increase physical activity in their communities.

Making Streets Safer in a Chicago Neighborhood
The Ravenswood neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, had a high rate of accidents involving pedestrians and cars. To address this problem, the city alderman representing the neighborhood worked with the Chicago Department of Transportation’s Livable Streets program to add more space for biking and walking on neighborhood streets. Streetscape features, including trees, signs, lampposts, benches, trash cans, and bicycle racks, were added to make the community a more attractive place for active transportation and for local businesses.

Building Complete Streets in Des Moines, Iowa [PDF-4.57MB]
When city officials in Des Moines updated their strategic plan, local advocates used the opportunity to push for adoption of a strong, equity-focused Complete Streets policy. Complete Streets are streets designed to allow safety, comfort, and access for everyone. The successful efforts in Des Moines served as a model for advocates in other parts of the state who are interested in passing Complete Streets policies in their communities.

Resources to Help You

  • Champions Corner
    This Smart Growth America website for Active People, Healthy Nation Champions provides information about how to build active and walkable communities while supporting the local economy and improving safety for citizens who walk, ride bicycles, rely on wheelchairs for mobility, and drive.
  • Practitioner’s Guide for Advancing Health Equity: Community Strategies for Preventing Chronic Disease
    The Maximizing Active Living Strategies to Advance Health Equity section of this guide provides equity-oriented considerations, key partners, and community examples to help design and use active living strategies.
  • The Active Communities Tool
    This tool helps cross-sector teams create an action plan for improving community environments that promote physical activity consistent with their community context.
Active People, Healthy Nation Proclamation

Mayors and other elected Active People, Healthy Nation Champions can customize this proclamation to show their support for creating activity-friendly communities.

Download: Proclamation Template [WORD-29KB]

Fact Sheets and Infographics

Connect with Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity