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Do You Live in an Active Community?

Easy access to physical activity makes for healthier, happier people. How does your town stack up?

August 8th, 2011

Do You Live in an Active Community?

Do you live in the kind of town where people seem to get out and move around a lot, or do you not even remember the last time you played with your kids at a playground, walked to the post office or rode a bike?

The way your city is designed could be big factor in how much activity you get on a regular basis.

Living in an active community has many benefits. Incorporating physical activity into your daily life can help control weight, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you’re more likely to be active in your free time if you live on the West Coast, parts of the Northeast, or in Colorado and Minnesota.

States where residents are least likely to be physically active during leisure time are Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee. In many counties in those states, more than 29 percent of adults reported getting no physical activity or exercise other than at their regular job.

MORE: Can You Lose Weight by Thinking Differently?

Living in an area that encourages physical activity makes it easier to be healthy. "We need changes in communities that make it safe and easy to be active. Sidewalks, street lights, and access to parks or recreation areas can encourage people to get out and move more," says Janet E. Fulton, Ph.D., of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.

To determine whether you live in an active community, check off the characteristics your community possesses from this list:

  • Walkable neighborhoods
  • Safe and secure playgrounds
  • Foot trails
  • Woods
  • Parks
  • Bike paths
  • Vital retail centers that encourage foot traffic

If you didn’t make many check marks, consider helping to make a difference in areas that lack opportunities and amenities for regular physical activity. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has tools that community advocates can use in assessing the built and social environments for physical activity online.

Community organizations and policymakers can transform their cities and make them more conducive to physical activity through health-promoting urban design, land use and transportation policies. If getting your city or town in shape is important to you, think about getting involved locally and making your voice heard.

In the meantime, you can make it priority to incorporate physical activity into your daily life.

MORE: Exercise: A Day in the Life

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