CDC: States Can Do More to Promote Physical Activity

Many states do not have the policy or environmental measures in place to help their residents meet the recommended levels of physical activity to promote health, according to a report released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The State Indicator Report on Physical Activity 2010 includes data about individual behaviors related to physical activity, as well as the presence or absence of physical features and policies that can make being physically active either easy or hard to do.

The report looks at community access to parks or playgrounds, community centers, and sidewalks or walking paths in neighborhoods. The data showed substantial limits to the number of parks and other areas where physical activity would be convenient.

According to the report, only 20 percent of blocks have parks within a half mile of their boundaries, and only 17 percent of blocks have a fitness or recreation center within that distance.

“Regular physical activity is essential to overall health and can also help people maintain a healthy weight and reduce their risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. “This state indicator report provides a measure for a state’s ability to support physical activity and shows where a state has been successful and where more work may be needed.”

The report also noted that only 17 percent of the nation’s high school students say they get at least an hour of physical activity each day, the minimum recommended for this age group.

One underlying reason for adolescents’ sedentary lifestyles may be the lack of easy ways for youth to be physically active in their communities and schools. Only 50 percent of young people reported having access to parks, playgrounds, community centers, and sidewalks that make physical activity convenient.

The report also finds that schools and childcare centers cannot be counted on as a place where young people can get the physical activity they need during the week. Only eight states require children to be engaged in moderate or vigorous physical activity in their licensed, regulated child care centers. Twenty states require or recommend scheduled recess for elementary students, while 37 states require elementary, middle and high schools to teach physical education.

“The places where we live, work, learn, and play affect the choices we make, and in turn, our health,” said Dr. William Dietz, director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. “As chronic diseases place an increasing burden on the nation’s health care system, the need for improving policies and environments for physical activity is more important than ever. This report can help states, communities and others work together to increase the number of Americans who live healthier lives by creating communities that support and encourage physical activity.”

The full report is available at http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/professionals/reports/index.html. For more information about physical activity, visit http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/.

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