Increased Access to Physical Activity
A lack of physical activity is one of the leading contributors to obesity and poor health. In many neighborhoods, there are not sufficient, safe places for walking, bike riding or physical play. Our community environments must change so that all families have access to safe places to be physically active. Communities have a front-line role when it comes to the community environment. Several options that local governments can take to increase access to physical activity have been identified by leading national organizations. These are well described by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The IOM report, Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity (released September 2009) identified 58 action steps, with 12 slated as most promising. The IOM report is specifically focused on strategies that are likely to directly affect children and that take place outside of the school day.
Following are the IOM’s most promising initiatives for increasing physical activity:
- Plan, build, and maintain a network of sidewalks and street crossings that connect schools, parks, and other destinations.
- Adopt community policing strategies that improve safety and security of streets and park use, especially in higher-crime neighborhoods.
- Collaborate with schools to develop and implement a Safe Routes to Schools program to increase the number of children safely walking and bicycling to school.
- Build and maintain parks and playgrounds that are safe and attractive for playing, and in close proximity to residential areas.
- Collaborate with school districts and other organizations to establish agreements that would allow playing fields, playgrounds, and recreation centers to be used by community residents when schools are closed (joint-use agreements).
- Institute regulatory policies mandating minimum play space, physical equipment, and duration of play in preschool, afterschool, and childcare programs.
- Increase opportunities for frequent, more intensive, and engaging physical activity during and after school.