The way in which communities are designed and function can promote—or inhibit—physical activity for children and adults. Children’s ability to be physically active in their community depends on whether the community is safe and walkable. Good sidewalks, reasonable distances between destinations, and access to structured play opportunities are all a few ways that can help improve the activity level of children on a regular basis.
Other effective actions communities can take to promote physical fitness include:
- Start a conversation about childhood obesity. Bring together everyone who has a role - city offices, faith-based and community-based organizations, schools, parks and recreation departments, businesses, childcare facilities and hospitals. Then, work together to make neighborhoods healthier by creating opportunities for physical activity and access to healthy, affordable food.
- School districts, schools, local government, community-based organizations, and local businesses can partner together to create or enhance expanded day and after-school programs that incorporate physical activity.
- Programs like Safe Routes to Schools have proven an effective way to get students safely walking and biking to school. Children who walk or bike to school report being more physically active, including engaging in more moderate to vigorous physical activity, than those who travel by car, bus, or train.
- Even without dedicated funding, some communities have found creative ways to make travel safe for young people between homes and neighborhoods, schools, and after school activities. For elementary students, the "walking school bus" has been a successful model, in which adults walk to school with a group of students.
- Parks and playgrounds in a community can provide opportunities to run and play and may increase unstructured physical activity. If children can easily access safe parks and playgrounds in good condition, they are more likely to engage in recreational physical activity there.
- Children’s level of physical activity has been shown to increase when they participate in environmental education programs that promote outdoor activity. Children of all ages are healthier, happier, and have better social skills if they have frequent opportunities for free and unstructured play outdoors. For these reasons, children need to be encouraged to connect with the outdoors–places that can promote both physical and emotional health.
- Become a Let’s Move! City or Town. Every city and every town is different, and each requires a distinct approach to this issue. Let’s Move Cities and Towns emphasizes the unique ability of communities to solve the challenge locally, aided by the crucial leadership of mayors and elected officials to provoke action.