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ACSM In The News

ACSM is fortunate to be the go-to source on sports medicine and exercise science for several national and international media outlets. You can find some of our most recent coverage below, or you can view archived articles.  

Activity-Friendly Environments Aid Obesity Control, Environmental Damage

by User Not Found | Aug 01, 2011
Expert says walkable communities are not more expensive to build or plan

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Cities that have “walkable” areas are beneficial for both community health and the environment, said a presenter today at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 12th-annual Health & Fitness Summit and Exposition.

Jim Sallis, Ph.D., FACSM, defines an activity-friendly city as one that “makes it easy and attractive to be physically active.” It should be easy, he said, for residents to walk to shopping areas, restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and more. Studies have shown that people are much more likely to be active if activity-friendly environments are nearby.

In addition to the health benefits that accompany a higher level of activity – such as decreasing obesity and preventing chronic disease – walkable cities also aid the environment through the reduction of motor traffic, and in turn, harmful emissions.

But, Sallis said, there is a misconception that building activity-friendly communities is more expensive than traditional methods, such as road construction.

“Lots of transportation funding is spent on building roads –somewhere around 95 percent of allocated funds,” Sallis said. “It won’t cost more money to build activity-friendly environments; it will just require money to be spent differently. More spending on things like sidewalks and trails that accommodate pedestrians and cyclists should reduce the need for expand the road network.”

Another issue, according to Sallis, is that many cities have zoning laws that essentially prevent walkable communities from being built.

“Some zoning plans keep commercial and residential areas far away from each other, when what we really need is more mixed-use environments to encourage walking as part of everyday life,” he said.

Sallis recommended that those interested in improving their communities’ health and fitness and increasing activity write letters to their local elected officials. Correspondence should not only encourage more sidewalks, mixed-use areas, and trails, but should also cite the importance of community beautification. Sallis said that people are more likely to opt for walking or cycling if they have aesthetically pleasing and shade-filled outdoor areas available.  Also, parks are needed in every neighborhood, so we provide people with opportunities to be active for both leisure and transportation.

The good news, Sallis said, is that more and more cities are embracing the idea of becoming physical activity-friendly, and some have set model examples for other communities around the nation.

“Portland, Ore., is famous for being walkable,” Sallis said. “Many years ago, they set up policies for transportation planning that make pedestrians a first priority, cyclists second, public transit riders third, and car-drivers last. It’s now one of the most activity-friendly cities in the country.”

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The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 International, National and Regional members are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research, education and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health and quality of life.

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