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Too many people lack access to physical activity, public health experts say
A majority of states are not providing their residents with the opportunity to get the recommended level of physical activity, according to a new public health study. Compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report looked at the availability in different states of infrastructure such as parks and playgrounds. The report also looked at the states' public health policies regarding recess and physical education class requirements in schools. The conclusion: many states fail in helping their residents get the amount of physical activity needed to avoid health conditions like diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
According to the public health report, only 20 percent of blocks have parks within a half-mile of their boundaries, and only 17 percent of blocks have a fitness or recreation center within that distance. The report also noted that only 17 percent of the nation's high school students say they get at least an hour of physical activity each day, the minimum recommended for that age group.
The public health report also found that schools and childcare 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 get exercise in licensed day 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, according to the report.
Public health officials say states and communities need to do more to ensure people have access to the kinds of facilities, such as parks, sports fields and even sidewalks, to encourage more people to exercise. "The places where we live, work, learn, and play affect the choices we make, and in turn, our health," said William Dietz, director of the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. "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."
The State Indicator Report on Physical Activity 2010 included data about individual behaviors related to physical activity, as well as the availability or lack of physical features and public health policies that can make being physically active either easy or hard to do. How does your state and community rank? Do you have access to parks, community centers or even sidewalks? Do the kids in your neighborhood get recess and structured physical education classes? Check out the CDC health news and let us know.
Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon