News and information from the National Physical Activity Plan 02/2014

The Most Walkable Cities across the U.S.

Nationwide, a small proportion of the people actually walk to work. In fact, less than 3% of U.S. adults commute to work primarily by foot. However, according to recent estimates of Census data, nearly a quarter of residents in some cities walk to work.

The following cities were identified as the 10 most walkable cities and serve as prime examples of how policy and planning efforts can increase active transportation options for everyone:

1. Cambridge, MA 24.5%
2. Columbia, SC 20.7%
3. Berkeley, CA 18.1%
4. Ann Arbor, MI 15.5%
5. Boston, MA 15.5%
6. Provo, UT 12.2%
7. Washington, D.C. 11.9%
8. New Haven, CT 11.2%
9. Syracuse, NY 11.0%
10. Providence, RI 10.8%

These cities are promoting policies and supporting planning efforts that make walking to work a realistic option for commuters. Their efforts align well with the strategies and tactics identified in the NPAP Transportation, Land Use, and Community Design sector.

The recent figures were estimated from the Census survey which measured the mode of transportation for an individual’s longest commute. Estimates were reported in the American Community Survey, 2012 1-year estimates.

The Battle for Physical Education
While the benefits of physical activity among youth are well-established, the availability of physical activity opportunities in schools has been challenged. In order to improve academic standards, some schools have reduced student exposure to non-academic programs such as physical education and recess in an effort to increase time for academics. While several schools have cut physical activity programs in order to replace them with programs deemed more important, others have instituted polices to increase the mandated amount of physical activity during the school day.

In one Minnesota school district, the school board is considering a plan that would eliminate 8th grade health class and reduce the mandatory physical education requirements among high school students in an effort to offer courses in technology and foreign languages. While the school superintendent does not deny the importance of health and physical education, he argues that it’s time for the district to offer a broader range of classes that will better prepare students for jobs or college.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Chicago Public School (CPS) system is moving to reinstate daily physical education classes. For the first time in 20 years, CPSs would require daily physical education for all students. “Making physical activity the standard in schools across CPS will have a powerful, lasting impact in the lives of Chicago’s children,” stated CPS spokeswoman Keiana Barrett.

No final decisions regarding physical education have been made in either state. The outcomes of such movements will play a vital role in shaping the physical activity environments in schools and ultimately student exposure to beneficial physical activity opportunities. The NPAP provides a number of evidence-based strategies and tactics in support of physical activity opportunities in the school setting.

Building Better Bike Lanes Benefits Business

American’s preference for urban living is on the rise. This may be driven (forgive the pun) by people’s increased desire to safely travel actively, by walking and bicycling from place to place. In response, several cities are incorporating bike lanes into existing infrastructure.

A new report from PeopleForBikes and the Alliance for Biking & Walking explores the benefits of protected bike lanes. These on-street bike lanes are physically separated from traffic by a barrier such as parked cars, poles, a curb, or even planters. In the report, 15 entrepreneurs and business leaders from several major US cities discuss how the use of protected bike lanes has positively benefited their company. Key findings in the report include:

  • Americans are driving less (-23%) and biking more (+24%).
  • Americans are moving to densely populated urban areas creating a demand for transportation solutions.
  • Companies are encouraging employee to exercise in an effort to curb health care cost – this include promoting active transport to work.
  • The most valuable customers are those who stop by often. Bikers spend less during each trip but visit more frequently resulting in better business in the long run.

Cities can take a number of steps to improve their transportation infrastructure, all of which can increase everyone’s opportunity for safe and accessible active transportation options. The NPAP highlights several strategies
that support improvements in active transportation options through changes in policies, community design, and land use.

A prime example is St. Louis where the County Council recently approved policies that aim to create safer and better roads for bicyclist. The county recently adopted a Complete Streets policy that will make active transportation a safe alternative for residents. Click here for more information about the efforts to support bicyclist in St. Louis, MO.

State School Health Policy Matrix Released

Last month, a new resource for examining school health policies at the state-level was released. The guide explores three main topics areas in the school environment:

  • physical education and physical activity
  • competitive foods and beverages
  • administration of medication

For those interested in the promotion and prioritization of physical activity policies, this guide is an excellent resource. Within the matrix, direct links to all relevant policies are available. Further, the guide helps to address questions such as ‘what policies exist’ and ‘who has the authority to make policy changes in these key areas’.

Efforts such as these are essential in monitoring school physical activity environments and can lead to the development/enhancement of a supportive physical activity environment in schools as promoted in the NPAP. The guide can serve as a tool to physical activity advocates by helping to identify effective school physical activity policies.

The State School Health Policy Matrix was a collaborative effort between the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

New Resource: Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs Guide for Schools
The CDC announces a new resource: the Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: A Guide for Schools. The guide serves as a tool to help schools transform into more active environments, giving all students the opportunity to be physically active at different times and places throughout the school day. A comprehensive school physical activity program (CSPAP) includes physical education, physical activity during school, physical activity before and after school, staff involvement, and family and community engagement helping students meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily activity.

Schools are encouraged to use this guide to develop an action plan, implementation strategies, and evaluate their own CSPAP. Resources such as this support the strategies and tactics outlined in the Education sector of the NPAP. This guide is the product of a collaborative effort between theAmerican Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) and experts in the field of school-based 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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