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Community Leaders, Take Action For a Fitter City!

Community Leaders, Take Action For a Fitter City!The American Fitness Index inspires community leaders and residents to recognize and celebrate the factors that contribute to their city’s culture of health and fitness. Explore the City Comparison Tool for your city’s ranking and scores and celebrate your city’s success with our promo tools!

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What can city officials and community leaders do to create a fitter city?

City officials have a significant opportunity to impact walking and biking through local policies, planning, and funding. Walking and biking projects make communities and neighborhoods more livable by ensuring all people can get safely to where they need to go—work, school, the library, grocery stores, or parks. Walking and biking also help people feel more attached to their neighbors, which improves quality of life.

Connect activity friendly routes to everyday destinations:

  • Develop sidewalks and trails that connect downtown areas to parks, residential buildings, museums, and retail. Mixed-use zoning facilitates these connections too.
  • Pass, implement, and enforce a local Complete Streets policy. These policies ensure safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transportation users of all ages and abilities.
  • Implement Safe Routes to School programs and encourage school districts to host walking and biking to school days.
  • Assess neighborhood allocation of funding and infrastructure development including, location and maintenance of connected sidewalks, protected bike lanes, street lights, shade trees, and desirable destinations.

Promoting community-wide physical activity, walking, and biking:

  • Use a Health In All Policies approach to systematically account for the health implications of policy and funding decisions which can improve the health of all communities and people.
  • Implement shared use agreements between schools and city departments like parks and recreation to increase access to active spaces/facilities.
  • Provide safe opportunities for all kids and families to participate in age-appropriate sports, recreations, and physical activity programs.
  • Encourage local businesses to promote a culture of health and provide physical activity opportunities before, during, and after the work day.

Why is health and fitness important to city officials?

For more than a decade the Fitness Index has provided an annual snapshot of community fitness for the largest cities and metro areas in the United States, a concept analogous to individuals having strong personal fitness.

Less than 25% of adults meet physical activity guidelines and 40% have obesity. The health care costs of physical inactivity exceed $117 billion yearly; physical activity has never been more important to local and national health and economic outcomes.

Physical activity isn’t only good for personal health, it’s good for a city’s bottom line. Well-designed, active cities experience increased home values, retail activity, as well as business and job growth. Every $1 invested in building trails for walking and biking saves nearly $3 in healthcare costs.

With 4 out of 5 Americans living in an urban environment, it’s critical for cities to build and maintain community assets that allow residents to be active in their daily lives.

Health and fitness are not issues of personal responsibility when the local community and infrastructure don’t support healthy eating and active living. The Fitness Index results highlight that not all cities have the same resources, and some of the differences between cities can make it harder for residents to be fit and healthy.