States Not Promoting Physical Activity, CDC Reports

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 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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% of blocks have parks within a half mile of their boundaries, and only 17% 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,” Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, CDC director, said in a press release. “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% 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% 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 child care 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. Only 20 states require or recommend scheduled recess for elementary students, while 37 states require elementary, middle and high schools to teach physical education.

“Today’s report shows that too many kids are spending too much time in front of a computer or a TV or a video game or have limited access to physical activity because they live in neighborhoods that aren’t safe, go to schools where P.E. classes have been cut, or live in communities where there are no sports leagues or afterschool activity programs,” first lady Michelle Obama said. “We need parents and teachers, business and community leaders and the public and private sectors to come together to create more opportunities for our kids to be active so they can lead happy healthy lives.”

“An active lifestyle, combined with healthy eating, is the number one way to prevent obesity and key to preventing a host of serious obesity-related diseases,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “Today’s report shines a spotlight on the additional need for safe and convenient places for Americans to be physically active in their communities.”

“The places where we live, work, learn and play affect the choices we make, and in turn, our health,” William Dietz, MD, PhD, director of CDC’s division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity, said. “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.”

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