Transforming a Small Midwestern City for Physical Activity: From the Sidewalks Up

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Jackson, Michigan (population 36,000) started active living interventions to help solve residents' low physical activity levels. Jackson's experience can serve as a case study for beginning similar efforts in smaller communities.


In 2003, Jackson began a 3-prong community intervention utilizing the 5P model to increase safe physical activity opportunities and encourage walking and biking for short trips. The focus included work on projects at 1) elementary schools, 2) worksites, and 3) city-wide networks.


Evaluation results show changes in attitudes toward active transportation (8% increase in children who thought walking to school was “safer” postintervention), intentions to try active transportation (43% of Smart Commute Day participants “would” smart commute more often postevent), and increased physical activity (the percentage of students walking to school more than doubled at 3 of 4 intervention schools). In addition, a community level observational study was conducted at 10 locations in the city in 2005 and 2006. The number of people seen using active transportation increased from 1,028 in 2005 to 1,853 people in 2006 (a 63% increase).


Local community-driven projects to increase walking and biking can be effective by utilizing a variety of interventions, from the individual to the policy level.

Hendricks and Wilkerson are with the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, Health, and Sports, Lansing, MI. Vogt is with the Dept of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Ten-Brink is with the Fitness Council of Jackson, Jackson, MI.