Be Active Your Way Blog
May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month! This month, organizations, schools, worksites, and communities across the nation are celebrating the benefits of being physically active, and the strides we've all made to help Americans move more. During May, take some extra time to enjoy the fun and excitement of being physically active with your friends, coworkers, and family.
How are you or your organization recognizing National Physical Fitness and Sports Month? E-mail us at email@example.com if you would like to contribute a blog post!
There are many reasons why individuals might not meet the Physical Activity Guidelines, but one major factor is the physical environment that surrounds them. When people don't have the option to make the healthy choice regarding their participation in physical activities, there is no possible way they can do it.
Over the past several decades, our society has engineered physical activity out of our lifestyles. For example, 13% of children five to fourteen years old usually walked or biked to school in 2009, compared with 48% of students in 1969. For a long time, neighborhoods were being built without regard for pedestrians, putting the needs of the driver first. Safe biking lanes, walking paths that connected places where people wanted to go, and a variety of safe outdoor play spaces were all but engineered out of most built environments. Schools were being put in a position where they had to eliminate physical education, whether for budget reasons or to meet academic goals. Offices were built without bike racks, employee changing areas, or easy to use staircases, further enhancing less physical activity instead of more.
Fortunately, things are starting to change. A healthier communities movement is building across the nation. The Y, along with other national organizations, is leading the way. Since 2004, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other corporate and foundation donors, the Y has engaged leaders in 200 communities in working together to implement strategies that provide opportunities for physical activity.
YMCAs engaged in our Healthier Communities Initiative (pioneering Healthier Communities, Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities and ACHIEVE) are helping families by giving parents peace of mind when they let their kids walk to school. The initiative is focused on creating safer routes, making streets safe for all users whether they are on foot or on wheels. The organizations strive to keep a generation of kids healthier by working with schools to increase physical education and physical activity during the school day, and making recess periods more active. The initiative also encourages employers to build environments that support activity among their employees. These examples are just the beginning.
How healthy is your community? What are examples of your community's efforts to change the built environment so more people engage in physical activity to meet the PA guidelines? How are you helping people see that their own built environment supports or inhibits meeting these guidelines? What barriers are there, and how can you work with other leaders in your community to collaboratively remove those barriers?
Tags: physical activity, environment, community
Barriers | Building Healthy Communities | Physical Activity and Employers | Playing Outside | Social Determinants
When we talk about "building healthy communities," we don't just mean improving the overall level of health and fitness of our fellow citizens. We mean, literally, building - as in, shovels, bricks, sod and structures. The built environment has much to do with how fit we are. How fit is your community?
Are there bike lanes so you can safely commute to work? Bike racks on buses and at your destination? Does your town have a series of parks within a quick walk for families? Can kids walk safely to school? If you live or work on a campus of buildings, are there places to walk and play outside?
Fitness is more than exercise classes or team sports. Our activities of daily living can add up to many minutes of healthy exercise, helping us regularly reach levels recommended in the federal guidelines. The opportunities vary from one community to another. While one region may have trails for cross-country skiing, another offers pocket parks. Zoning requirements may call for sidewalks for new construction or redevelopment. A closed school may become a community center with ballparks and playgrounds. It takes a fit community to create a fit population. The time to act is now!
The (Link Removed) includes strategies to encourage measures such as active transportation, many of which involve land-use planning, economic development, infrastructure choices and public policy. Some of these are large-scale, public undertakings involving networks of greenways and trails. Other efforts are within reach for small groups to accomplish. Many times, volunteers have built a playground over a weekend or turned abandoned lot into playground.
The old mantra "Think globally, act locally" applies here. We can take steps as individuals and groups while pursuing more comprehensive approaches. Examples of the latter include:
Meanwhile, there are opportunities in every community to make active lifestyles more accessible. It starts with taking a creative look at the world around us and a desire to help our families and fellow citizens achieve better health through activities of daily living. If you skip the office elevator or park in the out-lot to get in a few more steps, why not begin a workplace wellness program? Can you look into a Walking School Bus program at your neighborhood school? What would it take to a create a pocket park in the vacant lot down the street? The American College of Sports Medicine has developed the American Fitness Index, which you can use to rate your community's support for active lifestyles and healthy residents.
Exercise your imagination and see what opportunities you can create.
What can you do to work toward a built environment that encourages more active lifestyles in your community?
Tags: physical activity, commutities, wellness, healthy lifestyle
Building Healthy Communities | Social Determinants
Social determinants of health are social factors which can contribute to our health. We may not always take into consideration that factors such as income, social support, stress, social exclusion, neighborhood environments and education can have a profound impact on health. Additionally, one social determinant can actually lead to another and in many cases often does. For example, if you are unemployed, you are more likely to live in poor conditions and lack transportation. In this situation a person may not have the resources to go to a doctor for a medical issue, purchase healthy food, or engage in physical activity. For more information on social determinants of health, visit the CDC Web site.
Research has shown that healthcare alone cannot counteract the effects of these factors on health. Interventions and programming, both on the local and more global level, are needed that target these social factors. These interventions must be inclusive of all populations, including people with disabilities whose health can often have an even greater likelihood of being affected by these determinants.
Creating or adapting your interventions and programs in order to make them more inclusive of everyone is a process, and possibly an intimidating one. However, simply having the right attitude is a huge step in the right direction. If you are willing and open to creating modifications to accommodate even one person so he or she can benefit from your program, then you are on your way to being more inclusive. Here are some suggestions:
Tags: Social Determinants of Health
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.