New CDC physical activity report focuses on youth, 'complete streets'
At first glance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recently released "State Indicator Report on Physical Activity, 2014" seems to be yet another report on something that we already know.
South Carolina, and the nation as a whole, fails to meet not-so-rigorous government guidelines for physical activity.
So what's new?
A thorough read and some perspective from a national physical activity expert offer a few new insights.
The report, published earlier this month, presents state-level information on physical activity behaviors and on environmental and policy supports for physical activity.
It uses the "2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans" as a guideline for physical activity, defined (if you need reminding) as "at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity and at least two or more times a week of muscle-strengthening activities for health benefits."
Meanwhile, children and adolescents should do 1 hour (60 minutes) or more of physical activity daily.
Among the findings for South Carolina is that only 50 percent of adults meet guidelines calling for 150 minutes of physical activity a week. That's just a percentage point lower than the national average.
But the disparity shows more among our youth.
The report says that 19.6 percent of South Carolina youth get no physical activity, compared to 15.2 percent of American youth as a whole.
Focus on youth
Dr. Daniel Bornstein, assistant professor of health, exercise and sport science at The Citadel, serves as project coordinator for the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan. He sees the CDC's report as a call for action for our youth.
"As indicated in the report, South Carolina is not too far off the national physical activity averages for adults," says Bornstein. "However, we're significantly below national averages for youth physical activity. For example, the percentage of South Carolina youth with access to community centers, sidewalks and parks is far below national averages."
What can we do to help our youth become more active?
"Simply telling them or asking them to be more active is not the answer," say Bornstein. "The best thing we can do is have state and local government officials working together with our schools, departments of transportation and planning, departments of parks and recreation, and even chambers of commerce, to develop and implement the policies that have been proven to increase physical activity levels."
He says one specific action South Carolina can take is developing its own state physical activity plan. States like Texas and West Virginia modeled state physical activity plans off of the National Physical Activity Plan.
"These states are already beginning to reap the benefits of having such a plan," says Bornstein.
The report, Bornstein says, also underscores the importance that our environment, such as the availability of parks, sidewalks, bike lanes and other public facilities, plays in determining how active we are."
He adds that these environments outweigh individual knowledge, skills and motivation. "What this means is that those who live, work and play in environments that don't support regular physical activity, such as where there are no bike lanes or sidewalks connecting homes to business and schools, should not be expected to be as active as those who have access to more favorable environments."
The report illustrates how states can support physical activity and identify opportunities to improve access to environmental supports such as sidewalks or walking paths for active behavior.
It says, "State health departments can work with governmental and non-governmental partners to create safe places for physical activity, to enhance physical education and physical activity in schools and child-care settings, and to support street-scale and community-scale design policy ...
"For example, some state departments of health, parks and recreation, and education may work together to help communities establish joint-use agreements that allow residents to use school physical activity facilities after school hours. To increase residents' access to safe sidewalks, state departments of health, transportation and community organization may work together to support street-scale design policies."
The report highlights three examples of collaborations for other states to emulate.
In Michigan, the state's Department of Community Health partnered with Healthy Kids, Healthy Michigan, a statewide coalition representing more than 120 organizations, to support urban design that increases access to places to be physically active by implementing its "Complete Streets" initiative.
Complete Streets, for those who don't know, are streets that are designed or redesigned to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.
The Michigan initiative included statewide efforts to educate and promote the need for local Complete Streets ordinances. Community members who witnessed the effects of local ordinances supported a statewide measure.
Michigan policy makers introduced and adopted a statewide Complete Streets resolution on Aug. 1, 2010.
In Boston, the Bike-to-Market program is a community health program established by bicyclist organizations, public health researchers, and city representatives. The program provides opportunities for community members to safely ride bikes for transportation.
The result has been increased local access to bicycles, decreased bicycle theft, improved cyclists' knowledge about bicycle safety and increased civic engagement in street redesigns for bicycle and pedestrian safety.
Since the Bike-to-Market program began in 2010, it has repaired more than 1,600 bicycles and expanded the program from nine to 16 farmers markets. By the end of the 2011 farmers market season, 265 helmets were distributed to program participants.
And in Minnesota, the state's Department of Health convened a Safe Routes to School committee within its Active Living Advisory Group to support statewide activities related to Safe Routes to School.
Part of that effort included the hiring of an "active transportation coordinator" to focus solely on Safe Routes to School.
Reach David Quick at 937-5516.