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Physical activity, like walking, is one of the best ways a person can improve their health and quality of life, while cutting risk of at least 20 diseases and conditions.
Unfortunately, too few communities are designed for walking and physical activity.
Intentionally creating communities with safe routes to everyday destinations is a key strategy to increase physical activity─not only to reduce health disparities, healthcare costs, and premature death, but also to increase equitable access to opportunity to build health and wealth.
That’s why the CDC launched Active People, Healthy NationSM in January 2020.
The initiative will help community leaders use proven strategies to make physical activity safe and enjoyable for people of all ages and abilities. It specifically aims to move:
- 15 million adults from inactive to some activity every day;
- 10 million adults from some activity to 150 minutes per week; and
- 2 million young people from some activity to 60 minutes per day.
“We must focus on strengthening communities to make safer, more walkable communities, so that the healthy choice, is the easy choice,” tweeted U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome M. Adams.
Disparities in Physical Activity among Latinos
Latinos face inequities when it comes to access to places and opportunities for physical activity.
Overall, 31.7% of Latinos are physically inactive, according new CDC state-level data on physical activity launched alongside the Active People, Healthy NationSM initiative.
That was more inactivity than all other population groups, including non-Latino whites (23.4%).
In 22 states and Puerto Rico, 30% or more of Latinos are physical inactive, compared to only five states and Puerto Rico for non-Latinos whites.
“Too many adults are inactive, and they may not know how much it affects their health,” said Ruth Petersen, MD, Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, in a statement. “Being physically active helps you sleep better, feel better and reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.”
Inadequate levels of physical activity contribute to one in 10 premature deaths and are associated with $117 billion in annual healthcare costs.
Because there is a distinction between exercise and physical activity, it is important to focus on strategies to increase physical activity.
Strategies to Increase Physical Activity
While the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd edition describe the amounts and types of physical activity needed to maintain or improve overall health, the Active People, Healthy NationSM initiative describes strategies to increase physical activity, including:
- Activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations
- Access to places for physical activity
- School and youth programs
- Community-wide campaigns
- Social supports
- Individual supports
- Prompts to encourage physical activity
For example, zoning and Complete Streets policies influence the design of communities and streets and the distance between and access to everyday places, thus influence walkability and health.
We must focus on strengthening communities to make safer, more walkable communities, so that the healthy choice, is the easy choiceJerome Adams, MD
US Surgeon General
Increasing density and transit access along with affordable housings can generate more equitable walkable growth.
Access to parks and trails as well as places for physical activity at day cares, schools, malls, universities, senior centers and worksites also influence health. For example, schools may create shared-use agreements to allow community members access to fields and facilities after school, on weekends and over the summer.
Active People, Healthy NationSM also has promotional tools to spread the word, such as:
- Fact sheets
- Sample social media post: Increased physical activity can help improve health, and quality of life, and reduce healthcare costs. Unfortunately, too few communities are designed for walking. Active People, Healthy NationSMshares strategies to increase physical activity. #ActivePeople salud.to/activepeople
- Sample Twitter post: Everyone should safe routes to everyday destinations, like jobs, schools, grocery stores, and places for physical activity. Learn how Active People, Healthy NationSMis promoting equitable and inclusive access across America. #ActivePeople salud.to/activepeople
- Sample Facebook post: Walking is a great way to improve health and quality of life, and safe routes to everyday destinations are a great place to start. Active People, Healthy NationSMwill help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027. Increased physical activity can help improve health, and quality of life, and reduce healthcare costs. #ActivePeople salud.to/activepeople
See How our Salud Heroes are Implementing Physical Activity Strategies
Rey Saldaña thought that is was unfair that kids on the southside of San Antonio weren’t learning how to swim and didn’t have anywhere to swim.
So, he lead a partnership between two school districts and the local community college to provide and bus second grade students to free swimming lessons. He also helped local leaders push for funding for an aquatic center on the southside.
James Rojas thought the community planning process was intimidating and overlooked the Latino experience.
So, he came up with the concept “Latino Urbanism” and through art-based modeling and interactive workshops, provides a comfortable space to help community members and understand and discuss the deeper meaning of places and streets. He is helping community members and planners understand and address Latino needs and aspirations in the planning process.
George Block thought it was a waste of space for school fields and playgrounds to sit empty on evenings, weekends, and over the summer.
So, he helped almost 20 schools in San Antonio establish shared-use agreements to open their facilities to the public after school hours. He even installed gates to symbolically and literally repent an open schoolyard.
Cam Juarez originally thought of National Parks as places for professional hikers or wealthy white folks rather than Latinos.
So, he applied for and received a job with the National Park Service as its Community Engagement Coordinator to figure out to change the stigma around national parks and get more Latinos to visit. He created culturally and linguistically relevant events at the park and engaged schools by through free field trips or park ranger visits to classrooms.
What Else Can We Do?
You can support strategies to increase equitable access to physical activity in your community!
To start, take a closer look at active spaces in your own community.
Get a “Health Equity Report Card” for Your Area!
Select your county name and get a customized Health Equity Report Card by Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. You will see how your area stacks up in housing, transit, poverty, health care, physical activity, and other health equity issues compared to the rest of your state and nation.
The Health Equity Report Card auto-generates local data with interactive maps and comparative gauges, which can help you visualize health inequities.
You can email your Health Equity Report Card, share it on social media, and use it to make the case for community change to boost health equity, where everyone has a fair, just opportunity to live their healthiest.