Last month we considered the most common barriers that prevent people from walking. In part II we begin to understand how to promote and implement walking and strategies where people live, learn, work, and play. Places for walking can be designed and enhanced to improve their walkability. Improving walkability means that communities are created or enhanced to make it safe and easy to walk and that pedestrian activity is encouraged for all people.
What can communities can do to promote walking?
Community and street design policies are recommended approaches for increasing physical activity, including walking.
- Locating residences within short walking distance of stores, worksites, public transportation, essential services, and schools.
- Building sidewalks or paths between destinations that are well-connected, safe, and attractive. Communities with well-connected street networks have shorter blocks and more intersections that allow people of all ages and abilities to reach their destinations safely and conveniently
- Street designs that support walking and enhance pedestrian safety through measures that improve street lighting and landscaping and reduce traffic speed.
- Sidewalks and features that separate pedestrians from bicyclists and motor vehicles encourage walking and make walking safer
- Transportation and travel policies and practices that create or enhance pedestrian and bicycle networks and expand or subsidize public transit systems
Programs and policies that provide access to places for walking and encourage people to walk can improve walking and walkability.
- Creating or enhancing access to places for physical activity including public parks; health, fitness, and recreational facilities; schools, colleges, and universities; malls; senior centers; and worksites.
- Information to encourage use of these places; such as advertisements, promotional messages, and signs.
- Social support interventions increase physical activity by providing supportive relationships for behavior change. These include actions that provide friendshipand support (e.g., buddy systems, contracts with others to complete specified levels of physical activity, walking groups).
- Community-wide campaigns to promote physical activity that combines a variety of strategies, such as media coverage and promotions, risk factor screening and education, community events, and policy or environmental changes.
What roles do the different sectors of society play to support walking and walkability?
Many groups have a role to play to make the United States a nation with safe, easy, and desirable places to walk as part of our daily lives.
- The transportation, land use, and community design sector has a role in walking and walkability by managing federal, state, tribal, territorial, and local resources that support roadways, sidewalks, bikeways, public transit, community planning and zoning, and economic development.
- Parks and Recreational and Fitness Facilities offer people access to places to walk. Better access to parks, playgrounds, and recreational centers may encourage active transportation, such as biking or walking to the location.
- Schools can provide opportunities for physical activity and walking through physical education, recess, after-school activity programs (including sports and physical activity clubs), and physical activity breaks. Schools can also encourage walking by promoting safe routes for students to walk to and from school through community-wide approaches.
- Colleges and universities can promote a campus walking culture by creating pedestrian-friendly campuses, adopting and implementing policies that support walking, promoting walking clubs and group events, and providing classroom instruction.
- Worksites can encourage physical activity and walking through a multilevel approach; offer employees physical access to opportunities and supports for physical activity, providing access to on and off-site facilities, use of active workstations, adopt policies that enhance physical activity opportunities (paid activity breaks), and worksite health promotion programs.
- Health care professionals have a role to play in counseling their patients about physical activity, especially walking. Walking is an especially good activity for health care professionals to promote because most of their patients can walk, and walking can be easily modified to a person’s abilities.
- The media can be effective in influencing attitudes and changing behaviors, including health behaviors. Mass media campaigns combined with other intervention strategies, are effective in increasing physical activity among adolescents and walking among adults.
Ultimately, individuals make the decision to walk. However, the decision to walk can be made easier by programs and policies that provide opportunities and encouragement for walking and by improvements to community walkability. Strategies at the community level generally have greater reach and result in longer lasting change than strategies focused on individual behavior. The majority of the strategies mentioned above are based on recommendations from the Community Preventive Services Task Force on Approaches to Increase Physical Activity in the Community and the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities.