Policy Factsheet

Access to Places for Physical Activity

Reasons for Policy

  • Regular physical activity is associated with enhanced health and reduced risk of all-cause mortality.1
  • Despite the benefits of regular physical activity, only 25% of adults in the United States report engaging in the recommended amounts of physical activity.2
  • Low-income and racial/ethnic minority populations have less access to facilities for physical activity, which may contribute to disparities in regular physical activity and obesity.3

Community Groups

  • Businesses
  • Community-based Organizations
  • Gyms and Fitness Facilities
  • Local Community Centers
  • Local Government

Policy Components

  • Improve access to existing facilities or create new places (e.g., walking trails)
  • Informational outreach activities, such as training on equipment, health behavior education and techniques, seminars, counseling, risk screening, health forums, and workshops

Desired Outcomes

  • Create healthful physical and organizational environments
  • Increase physical activity in the community
  • Increase physical fitness
  • Reduce body fat or weight in individuals

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 1: Evidence-Based Policies Meeting Criteria for Effectiveness.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

On average, increasing access to places for physical activity can achieve:

  • 5.1% increase in aerobic capacity5
  • 8.2% increase in energy expenditure5
  • 2.9% increase in leisure-time physical activity5
  • 48.4% increase in frequency of physical activity5

Community Examples

Utah, the Governor of Utah implemented an initiative, WorkWell, which encourages public agencies to provide a healthy workplace. Healthy Utah, a free program for state and local government employees and their spouses, offers wellness programs, wellness councils, seminars and webinars. Forty-three state agency sites have implemented worksite wellness councils.

Ohio, Healthy Ohioans Business Council is a group of Ohio companies promoting best practices for a healthy workforce. The Governor appoints members to the executive committee from companies providing exemplary health and wellness programs for their employees. The Council, working with the Ohio Department of Health, promotes health and wellness programs and encourages Ohio business to adopt wellness practices.

Boston, Healthworks Foundation, a non-profit organization, operates fitness centers for low-income women.

Links to Policy Examples

The Governor and Director of the Utah Department of Health, through their administrative powers, encourage and implement the Work Well and Healthy Utah programs.

Healthy Ohio Business Council, Articles of Operation

Be sure to check with your state, county, and municipal governments regarding potential existing laws that may impede any new policy development.

References

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Physical activity and health: A report of the Surgeon General (1996). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1996.

2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity (1999). Promoting physical activity; A guide to community action. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1999.

3 Gordon-Larsen, P, Nelson, MC, Page, P, & Popkin, BM (2006). Inequality in the built environment underlies key health disparities in physical activity and obesity. Pediatrics, 117(2), 417-424.

4 Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.

5 Kahn, EB, Ramsey, LT, Brownson, RC, Heath, GW, Howze, EH, Powell, KE, Stone, EJ, Rajab, MW, Corso, P, & The Task Force on Community Preventive Services (2002). The effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 22(4S), 73-107.