To promote exercise, planners must look beyond cities

Warner and Xue Zhang, a postdoctoral scholar at Syracuse University, are co-authors of “Linking Urban Planning, Community Environment and Physical Activity: A Socio-ecological Approach,” published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The scholars’ recommendations emerged from models they developed to identify the most important factors – individual, community and policy – influencing physical activity.

Demographic factors mattered most, the models showed. For example, communities with higher minority populations exercised less, likely due to lower incomes and longer commutes, Zhang said. Rural communities, whose populations on average are older and less affluent, similarly report less physical activity.

To better support rural and under-resourced communities, the researchers said, planners should work to broaden transportation options and promote recreation services, emphasizing the importance of collaboration across public health, planning, transportation and parks and recreation agencies. They should also give more attention to concerns about traffic safety and crime, in addition to policies promoting complete streets or mixed-use neighborhoods.

“Our models show safety is as important as transportation and more important than the built environment,” the scholars wrote.

Examples of planning and policy changes that Warner and Zhang have explored in related research could include lowering the speed limit on rural roads to make them safer for walking or biking. Partnerships enabling schools, libraries and fire departments to share facilities for recreation programs, transportation or food distribution could also help overcome limitations in the built environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic, Warner said, demonstrated many local governments’ ability to pivot overnight to alternative ways of doing business, and that spirit of collaboration and creativity will be needed as the U.S. population grays.

“As more of us get older, we’ve got to start designing our communities for everybody,” Warner said. “We can’t just have urban-based recommendations; we also need to think about what you would do in other places.”


Filed under Uncategorized

3 responses to “To promote exercise, planners must look beyond cities

  1. My parents come from a country that is bike friendly. The one feature that stands out for me outside of the urban areas is a cycling infra structure along side every divided highway. Image a robust bike lane along the 400 series highway in Ontario or along the Interstate highways in the US.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s great. I rode in San Diego, CA some years ago, but we were on a highway with a bike lane and felt perfectly safe.


      • It is a chicken and egg matter. The more bikes on the road, the more incentives to improve the infrastructure. The better the infrastructure, the more you will see people out there cycling.
        In NA we have single mindedly built infrastructure for motor vehicles. Changing that comes with major barriers as we can all imagine.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s