The built environment has profound effects on physical activity and health. Many communities in the US are built around the automobile, with little consideration given to pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. These places tend to have higher rates of physical inactivity (defined as “no leisure time physical activity”) and higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. However, in some European countries and selected US cities, communities have been constructed in ways that encourage active modes of transportation. In these places, a large segment of the population meets physical activity guidelines, due in part to the activity they acquire in performing daily tasks. In addition to promoting active transportation, these environments promote recreational walking, jogging, and cycling. Kinesiologists can and should work with urban planners, transportation officials, developers, public health practitioners, and the general public to design cities in ways that enhance physical activity and health.
The author (NAK Fellow #495) is with the Dept. of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.