Active Living Resources – a lifestyle includes daily physical activity

Introduction – Active Living Resources

When health-care professionals talk about “active living,” they are referring to a lifestyle that includes daily physical activity.

Walking and bicycling are, or should be, the easiest ways to fit activity into our lives.

Unlike, say, weight-lifting and swimming – both of which are great exercise – walking and bicycling are more than great exercise; they are transportation, or ways to get from here to there … and back again.

We all should be able to walk or bicycle to school, to work, to the bus stop, or simply to explore our neighborhoods.

By making conditions safer for bicycling and walking, we will encourage a greater number of people to make physical activity a regular part of their lives.

Let’s get together to break down the barriers and make biking and walking convenient for everyone, everywhere in America!

Vision and Goals – Active Living Resources

First, try answering these questions: What does a community look like where conditions are favorable for walking and bicycling?

What would need to change in your city or town before you would see people of all ages out walking and bicycling?

Next, develop a Vision Statement based on your answers to those questions. A vision statement sums up how you would like the future to look.

To help you get started, we’ve provided some suggestions on developing a Vision Statement, as well as a sample Vision Statement(as both a web page and Word file).

With an idea in mind of where you’d like to wind up – the vision – the next step is to decide how walkable and bicycle-friendly your community already is. To help, we’ve divided the issues into five broad areas, or Vision Elements:

Objectives and Actions – Active Living Resources

With a Vision Statement and Goals in hand, you’re ready to list your Objectives and Actions. In other words, what smaller steps can you take to work toward reaching your Vision and Goals? What does your community need to make walking and bicycling easy, convenient, and accessible for travel, recreation, and exercise?

By clicking on the links to the right, you’ll find suggested Objectives and Actions for each of the five Vision Elements. As you read through them, you’ll no doubt see that your community already does a good job on some of them, while others need work.

A good way to understand what your community is doing right and wrong is to conduct a survey, or audit of existing conditions. We’ve developed a community assessment tool that will help you decide how well your community fulfills each of the proposed Goals and Objectives. This and other assessment tools are available on our community assessment tools page.

Better Nutrition – Active Living Resources

What’s Different today?

In many households, the home-cooked meal has been replaced by processed and prepackaged food. This food in many cases is high in fat, additives, and sugars. Plus, lots of high-calorie snacks are easily available in vending machines in schools and other places.

In some neighborhoods, grocers carrying fresh fruits and vegetables are scarce while fast food outlets and convenience stores are everywhere.

How can your community create a healthier lifestyle for today’s youth? Several organizations offer advice on how to create a healthier lifestyle for kids:

– The US Department of Agriculture has developed a Home Nutrition Team website stocked with information and resources on healthy eating. The information offered, plus links to other resources, make this a good place to start.

– The National Education Association promotes fitness and healthier food choice programs for kids.

– The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) encourages communities to create opportunities for physical activities that promote confidence in kids. Their VERB Campaign offers resources and information to make regular physical activity “cool” for tweens – and a fun thing to do.

Some schools have removed vending machines or replaced traditional snack foods with healthy offerings. Some states have passed legislation regarding vending machines in schools. In the Resources box below you’ll find a link to an excellent CDC report with summaries of successful programs in six schools across the country.

For use with older students, the Policy Game was developed by California Project LEAN. This training guide leads groups through the four stages of policy-making, with the goal of helping them to eat healthier and become more physically active while developing leadership skills.

Obesity & Inactivity – Active Living Resources

It’s gone beyond just being a “problem.” Public health practitioners are now telling us we’ve got an “obesity epidemic” on our hands. It affects both boys and girls and has occurred in all age, race, and ethnic groups throughout the United States. [1]

Eating More and Moving Less

The increase in the number of obese children is likely the result of children and youth eating more calories than they are using through daily physical activity. It’s all about energy: weight gain results when the energy expended (through walking, biking, play) is consistently less than the energy intake over time (meals and snacks).

A Number of Factors

The rise in childhood obesity is due to a number of factors that influence eating and physical activity. These factors include:

– urban and suburban designs that discourage walking and other physical activities;
– pressures on families to minimize food costs and preparation time, resulting in frequent meals using convenience foods high in calories and fat;
– reduced access in some communities to fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods;
– fewer opportunities for physical activity at school and after school, as well as reduced walking or biking to and from school;
– less time spent playing outdoors replaced with more “screen time:” television, computers, and video games.

Immediate Risks to a Child’s Health

In a society that stigmatizes obesity, overweight youngsters can develop low self-esteem. This can carry over into problems at school or the ability to make friends.

From a health standpoint, the stakes are high. In one recent study, approximately 60 percent of obese children aged 5 to 10 years had at least one cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor, such as elevated total cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, or blood pressure. And 25 percent of the obese children in this study had two or more risk CVD risk factors.

Which states are doing the best to fight the childhood obesity problem? One source, Child Magazine, says Connecticut is overall the healthiest state in which to raise a child. Learn more about this study and see how your state is ranked.

Wellness Policies & Programs

As the American public has become increasingly aware of the obesity epidemic and the associated health risks a significant amount of energy has gone into creating policies and programs to reverse the trend and to break its cycle by targeting wellness – preventive measures that promote good health. Presented here are a sampling of federal, state and local policies and programs that have implications for, and should be of interest to, every community or community group interested in wellness policies and programs. Since most of the website focuses on physical activity, the emphasis here is on policies and programs that encourage healthy eating.

Of significant import is Public Law 108-265, the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004. This law requires all local education agencies participating in the National School Lunch Program to establish a school wellness policy by June 2006. Local policies must include goals for nutrition education, physical activity and other school-based activities that are designed to promote student wellness. Development of the policy must involve parents, students, and representatives of the school food authority, the school board, school administrators and the public. This provides a great opportunity for community dialogue and input on everything from the school lunch program to how much activity is provided throughout the school day. Many schools and communities are developing wellness policies that include Safe Routes to School Programs, food preparation classes and the inclusion of local fresh fruits and vegetables.