"Active Living" - Doesn't that have a nice ring to it? Does it sound more appealing than physical activity or exercise? Active living is different than physical activity or exercise, but it includes both. And yes, this is another article about increasing all of the above, but looking at it from a broader perspective.
Active Living is a life style where people are more active because walking is a way of life and a way to get to shopping, restaurants and community events. Schools help residents of all ages be more active by providing students with quality recess, physical education and after-school programs, and by sharing their facilities with the community outside of school hours. Streets are considered "Complete Streets" meaning they are safe and comfortable for walkers and bikers, which then encourages people to get more exercise as part of their daily routines. Active Living means individuals taking the stairs regularly, going for walks, enjoying active recreation, and reducing time being sedentary. The community built environment supports these goals by making it safe and enjoyable to be out walking and the culture of the community is such that it becomes the norm for everyone to walk and participate in active recreation.
Engaging in regular physical activity is one of the most important things that people of all ages can do to improve their health. Physical activity strengthens bones and muscles, reduces stress and depression, and makes it easier to maintain a healthy body weight or to reduce weight if overweight or obese. Even people who do not lose weight get substantial benefits from regular physical activity, including lower rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer.
While it is up to the individual to make the decision & commitment to be physically active, there are steps you can take to help your community and organizations support these goals. Look at some of these options and think about how you can encourage and support "Active Living" with your involvement in community, schools, church, and organizations. When opportunity presents, keep some of these concepts in mind.
Encourage community design and development that supports physical activity such as safe sidewalks, lower speed limits and stronger crosswalk enforcement; Promote and strengthen school policies and programs that increase physical activity such as keeping in recess and gym classes, and active after school programs; Facilitate access to safe and affordable places for physical activity such as playgrounds and walking and bike trails; Look at physical activity levels in your community and provide education and information about how to become more active.
Design safe neighborhoods that encourage physical activity (e.g., include sidewalks, bike lanes, adequate lighting, multi-use trails, walkways, and parks); Bring together partners (e.g., urban planners, architects, engineers, developers, transportation, law enforcement, public health) to consider health impacts when making transportation or land use decisions; Support local community groups in their efforts to improve access and availability to physical activity.
Businesses and Employers
Adopt policies and programs that promote walking, bicycling, and use of public transportation (e.g., provide access to fitness equipment and facilities, bicycle racks, walking paths, and changing facilities with showers); Sponsor a new or existing park, playground, trail, recreation program, or beautification or maintenance project in the local community. Provide incentives for your employees to become engaged in activities and their community around these issues.
Health Care Systems, Insurers, and Clinicians
Conduct physical activity assessments with patients, provide counseling, and refer patients to rehab or health and fitness professionals; Provide a prescription for physical activity when appropriate; Include physical activity as part of your culture.
Early Learning Centers, Schools, Colleges, and Universities
Provide daily physical education and recess that focuses on maximizing time physically active; Participate in fitness testing (e.g., the President's Challenge) and support self-improvement plans; Support walk and bike to schools programs and work with local governments to make decisions about selecting school sites that can promote physical activity; Limit passive screen time; Make physical activity facilities available to the local community and encourage their use outside of school time.
Community, Non-profit, and Faith-based Organizations
Offer low or no-cost physical activity programs (e.g., intramural sports, physical activity clubs); Encourage shared use of physical activity facilities (e.g., school gymnasiums, community recreation centers) and use these facilities to sponsor active recreation; Create a Wellness Committee to build in healthy activities and foods at all of your events and meetings; Sign up for charity walks and runs as a group; Seek out active community activities to sponsor.
Individuals and Families
Engage in at least 2.5 hours of activity each week or at least one hour of activity each day for children; Take a walk as a family; Swim with your children; Take a hike, ride a bike, play a game, and move as much as possible during your free time. Limit screen time for everyone, especially during the summer months. Join an exercise class and try something new. Get your friends involved in moving and being active to set up a support system. Set a fun goal to reach at the end of a time frame and enjoy the process of reaching it.
Adapted from: National Prevention Strategy-ACTIVE LIVING