News and information from the National Physical Activity Plan 01/2014

America’s Health Rankings Released:  
Physical Inactivity on the Decline

According to the 2013 America’s Health Rankings report, physical inactivity among US adults is on the decline, down 3.3% from 2012. The 2013 edition of the report found that 22.9% of US adults reported no physical activity or exercise (such as running, calisthenics, gardening, or walking) other than their regular job in the last 30 days. The prevalence of physical inactivity among states ranges from a high of 31.0% in Arkansas to a low of 16.2% in Oregon. Consistent with previous literature, the report found physical inactivity to:

·  increase with age;
·  be higher in females compared to males (25% vs. 21%);
·  be higher in minority populations;
·  decrease as income and education increased; and
·  decrease with level of urbanicity (rural: 29%; suburban:22%; urban: 21%)

The report, a collaboration between the American Public Health Association, United Health Foundation, and Partnership for Prevention, is the longest running annual assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis. The rankings are based off data from the CDC’s 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Review the report for additional information on physical inactivity prevalence by state and population demographic variables.

States Promote Policies for School Physical Activity

The Education sector of the NPAP calls for the development and implementation of policies supporting student access to high-quality, comprehensive physical activity opportunities in schools. Today, however, schools have experienced budget cuts and increasing pressure to improve academic performance. In response to these challenges, some schools have reduced extracurricular program availability. Significant cutbacks in recess and physical education time have been observed in several schools, decreasing student opportunities to engage in health-enhancing physical activity.

Despite these challenges, some states are developing policies to support and protect physical activity opportunities in the school setting. Last month, a Michigan State Representative introduced a new bill that would require statewide mandatory physical education standards for elementary and middle schools. The bill calls for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical education twice a week for the entire school year for elementary school students. In addition, schools would also be required to provide 60 minutes per week of in school physical activity. For middle schoolers, the bill would require 45 minutes of physical education every day for at least one semester.

New Jersey legislators are considering a bill that would guarantee daily recess for elementary school students. If passed, the bill would require schools to offer students a minimum of 20 minutes of daily recess. In addition, no student can be denied recess for any reason under the new legislation. For additional information about strategies and tactics that promote supportive physical activity policies in schools visit the NPAP website.

2013 Runner Friendly Communities   

The Road Runners Club of America is pleased to name four US communities as the most runner friendly communities in the country. The 2013 Runner Friendly Community award was designated to the following communities for their efforts to create an environment supported of physical activity: Chattanooga, TN; Sarasota, FL; Kalamazoo County, MI; and South Lake, FL.

The program’s goal is to bring a national spotlight to communities that exemplify local community efforts to create a supportive runner environment. Each community was evaluated on three domains for the award: community infrastructure, community support, and local government support.

Designation as a Runner Friendly Community not only supports the running community, but improves access to physical activity opportunities for all residents. As outlined in the NPAP, these enhancements to the local running environment can facilitate many positive benefits including increases in physical activity behavior and quality of life, as well as a boost to the local economy. Further, these communities serve as successful examples of multiple community-level sectors working together toward the common goal of increasing support and access to running as a health-enhancing behavior. For ideas on how to make your community more runner friendly, visit the NPAP webpage and review the efforts of the 2013 Runner Friendly Community awardees.

Washington is Working on Wellness

Across the country, many states have embraced the implementation of wellness programs in hopes of health and financial gains. Current research supports the effectiveness of well-designed wellness plans when employees fully engage in the program. Furthermore, improvements in employee health can translate to employer savings on health insurance over time.

Most recently, the state of Washington has proposed a new incentive-based program for all state employees. Governor Jay Inslee introduced the proposal which is designed to increase state employee participation in wellness programs through generous cash incentives. If the proposal is adopted, state employees could reduce their monthly health insurance premiums by up to $125 through participation in employee wellness programs.

Considering a total state employment of approximately 3 million, Washington’s efforts to establishing a worksite wellness program at the state level is encouraging. State employers have the potential to foster the development of health-enhancing lifestyle behaviors, including physical activity; ultimately leading to a healthier, more productive workforce and nation. To increase the effectiveness of such efforts, several strategies and tactics are discussed in Business and Industry sector of the NPAP.

Can Public Transit Increase Physical Activity?
Houston Researchers to Explore the Relationship Between
Active Transportation and the Environment

As outlined in the Transportation, Land Use, and Community Design sector of the NPAP, transportation systems, development patterns, and community design and planning decisions can all have profound effects on physical activity. A new study
in Texas hopes to explore the true impact transit systems can have on activity levels.
With the opening of a new metro line in Houston, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute are eager to investigate the impact of the new light rail on physical activity. Researchers believe that the more an individual rides the metro, the more calories they will burn since riders tends to walk more compared to drivers. Over the next four years the $2.5 million study will assess this hypothesis among ~2,000 people living along the new rail line.

If the rail is found to significantly increase activity levels, the study’s principle investigator Harold Kohl III, believes it could help with the design of future transit systems and add to the limited body of research exploring the extent that the light rail systems can encourage walking in nearby residents.

With almost three quarters of Americans reporting that they feel they have no choice but to drive, studies supporting the effectiveness of transit systems’ ability to increase physical activity are vital in order to prioritize development of these transportation options in communities across the country. Identification of evidence-based strategies to enhance existing transit systems and community infrastructure are needed in order increase American’s opportunities to engage in active transportation and achieve the recommended levels of physical activity.

Oliver Bartzsch is an experienced medical professional with over 15 years of professional experience. With a passion for medicine, fitness, and personal growth, he is always willing to challenge himself to accomplish tasks and especially to provide accurate medical information to people. Oliver is a long-time medical editor for multiple sites. With more than 10 years of medical writing experience, he has completed over 350 projects with both individual and corporate clients.


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