Active Living

Definition

Active living is a way of life that integrates physical activity into daily routines. Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure (1). Regular physical activity reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes (2). It’s recommended that individuals get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity for the best health outcomes. Aerobic activity is any sustained exercise such as jogging, rowing, swimming, or cycling, that stimulate and strengthen the heart and lungs, thereby improving the body's utilization of oxygen. Additional benefits occur with more physical activity (3).

By now, most Americans are familiar with the idea that good health comes from eating a nutritious diet and engaging in regular exercise. Some may have even heard that individuals need a minimum of 30 minutes of daily physical activity to stay in good health. This is because engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to:

• control weight,
• reduce risk of cardiovascular disease,
• reduce risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome,
• reduce risk of some cancers,
• increase bone and muscle strength,
• enhance mental health and improve moods,
• improve ability to engage in everyday activities,
• prevent falls for older adults, and
• increase longevity (4).

The current “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans," recommend Americans follow certain guidelines to help improve their health through physical activity (2). 

Key Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults

All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.

For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably spread throughout the week.

For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in more physical activity beyond this amount.

Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week, as these activities can provide additional health benefits. These activities should be done at moderate- or high-intensity and involve all major muscle groups.

Key Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Adolescents

Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.

Most of the 60 or more minutes a day should be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, with vigorous-intensity aerobic activity included at least 3 days a week.

Additionally, on at least three days a week, children and adolescents should also include muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities as part of their 60 or more minutes of daily activity.

It is important to encourage young people to participate in physical activities that not only offer variety, but are also appropriate for their age range.

Despite the proven benefits, it can be difficult for Americans to meet these physical activity guidelines because of common barriers. One of these barriers is the way our communities are built. Some communities do not have access to parks, sidewalks, bike paths or safe places for people to be physically active (5,6). Improvements to the built environmental could address these issues and promote increased physical activity.

Another common barrier to being physically active, is a lack of time (7). Taking part in active transportation modes, such as walking or bicycling, are excellent ways to commute to work while reaping the health benefits of being physically active. Improvements to the built environment could also make it easier for individuals to use active transportation. 

Implications and Data for Jefferson County

Community Health Needs Assessment Focus Group Findings

Safety of the built environment was cited by numerous participants across focus groups as a barrier to more active living. Participants noted that:

1. Roads are not currently designed for cars and bikes to share safely leading residents to conclude that riding bicycles is dangerous. As one person put it, “bikes on the road are death-defying.”

2. There are few places where pedestrians can cross roads safely

3. There is a need for better wayfinding for pedestrians and cyclists

4. Participants from the focus group held in Conifer noted that youth health was a major concern in their community. The lack of a youth recreation center was recognized as a barrier to encouraging greater physical activity in this group.

Percent of children (5-14 years) with exercise risk factors, Jefferson County and Colorado (2013-2015)

Source: CO Child Health Survey (2013-2015)

Community Health Needs Assessment Key Informant Findings

Some informants noted a perceived drop in the use of their community recreation centers by Hispanic and Latino residents. They expressed fears that the current national climate is creating anxiety in this community around use of public facilities for engaging in physical activity.

Physical activity support for the Hispanic and Latino community, and encouraging their use of recreational facilities, was expressed by some informants as a need — citing high levels of obesity and heart disease in this population. One informant proposed creation of a free bikeshare program, targeting both the low-income community and Hispanic and Latino families, to enjoy the county’s trail infrastructure and become more active.

Concerns around recreation access for Hispanic and Latino youth was raised as an issue by a key informant. They noted that it can be unaffordable for Hispanic and Latino families to have their youth participate in organized sports, such as soccer, which can be a culturally relevant way to encourage greater physical activity in Hispanic and Latino youth. An informant noted importance of this by pointing out the higher levels of obesity and heart disease among Hispanics and Latinos. This can be attributed to ready fast food access and consumption and the limited number of playgrounds and recreational facilities within some Hispanic and Latino neighborhoods.

Poor sidewalk infrastructure was noted as a barrier to active living for families living in some parts of the Colfax corridor. An informant mentioned that sidewalk infrastructure was inconsistent between old neighborhoods and newly developed ones. Click here to learn more about recreation access.

Only 1.5%, of those 16 years and over, walked to work an only 0.6% biked to work in Jefferson County in 2017

- US Census, ACS 2017 - 1 year estimate, Table: S0801

Historically, transportation systems in the United States were designed for cars and not people. Many characteristics of the built environment are unfriendly to those members of our community who don’t have access to personal cars — those relying on public transit, walking or bicycling as their main form of transportation (8). Lack of adequate sidewalks and bike trail connectivity in growing urban areas, has contributed to only 10 percent of children walking or biking to school, compared to historical levels of 40 percent only 20 years ago (9). Encouraging land for use that is friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as transportation policies that increase the mix of transportation options available to residents, can reduce social isolation and promote connections to nearby parks and green spaces— encouraging more active transportation.

The map to the right shows the percent of adults (18+) who report not doing any physical activity or exercise per week, by census tract in Jefferson County. Darker areas represent tracts with more adults reporting no physical activity.

Percent of adults who were not physically active or did not exercise in the past 30 days (outside of regular work activities) (2014-2017)

Source: CDPHE BRFSS Small Area Estimates (2014-2017)

Health Disparities and Inequities

Source: CO BRFSS

Community Resources within Jefferson County

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Reference List


1. World Health Organization (2018). Physical Activity. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/topics/physical_activity/en/

2. US Department of Health and Human Services (2008, October). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Retrieved from: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf

3. New South Wales Department of Health (2010, December). Public Health Classifications Project: Determinants of Health (SHPN (CER) 100195). Retrieved from: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/hsnsw/Publications/classifications-project.pdf

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009, October 15). Healthy Places. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/healthtopics/physactivity.htm

5. Ewing R, Cervero R. (2010). Travel and the built environment: a meta-analysis. Journal of the American Planning Association, 76(3):265–294. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01944361003766766

6. Freeland AL, Banerjee SN, Dannenberg AL, Wendel AM (2013). Walking associated with public transit: moving toward increased physical activity in the United States. American Journal of Public Health,103(3):536–542. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23327281

7. Lee C, Ory MG, Yoon J, Forjuoh SN. (2013). Neighborhood walking among overweight and obese adults: age variations in barriers and motivators. Journal of Community Health, 38(1):12–22. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22811072

8. Hutch, D. J., Bouye, K. E., Skillen, E., Lee, C., Whitehead, L., & Rashid, J. R. (2011). Potential Strategies to Eliminate Built Environment Disparities for Disadvantaged and Vulnerable Communities. American Journal of Public Health, 101(4), 587–595. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3052324/

9. Srinivasan, S., O’Fallon, L. R., & Dearry, A. (2003). Creating Healthy Communities, Healthy Homes, Healthy People: Initiating a Research Agenda on the Built Environment and Public Health. American Journal of Public Health, 93(9), 1446–1450. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447991/ 

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Data Sources


Colorado BRFSS: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey: http://www.chd.dphe.state.co.us/cohid/https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/colorado-health-indicators

CDPHE BRFSS: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, Small Area Estimates: http://www.cohealthmaps.dphe.state.co.us/cdphe_community_level_estimates/

US Census, ACS: American Community Survey - American Factfinder (Table: S0801): https://www.census.gov

CO Child Health Survey: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2nM-3jK5N8pUE5uRFVHM2RmOWc/view

HKCS: Healthy Kids Colorado Survey: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/hkcs

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Published on July 17, 2018

Updated April 23, 2019