Regular physical activity is one of the most important things that people can do to support their health. Being active can immediately help people feel better after each session of activity, and regular physical activity can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases and premature death.
Although the benefits of physical activity are well known, many people do not engage in the recommended amount of physical activity. Populations with low income compared with higher incomes, people who are Black or Hispanic compared to non-Hispanic White people and residents of rural areas compared to urban areas have lower rates of physical activity. We know that systematic inequities exist in opportunities to be physically active which contribute to these disparities.
In response to the low levels of physical activity in the United States and the numerous benefits of being physically active, in January 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched Active People, Healthy Nation, a nationwide effort that aims to help 27 million Americans become more physically active by 2027. The initiative supports equitable and inclusive access to opportunities for physical activity for all people regardless of age, race, education, socioeconomic status, disability status, sexual orientation or geographic location.
How do we increase levels of physical activity in the United States?
Active People, Healthy Nation provides a comprehensive evidence-based approach to improving physical activity by promoting at the local, tribal, state and national level s even strategies that work in partnership with other federal agencies and national organizations (see figure). Every Active People, Healthy Nation strategy can be designed to support equitable and inclusive access to opportunities for physical activity. Communities can select strategies to increase physical activity that fit with their local context, including the needs and preferences of community members and community assets.
How do I get involved?
Everyone has a role to play to increase physical activity—individuals, organizations and community champions. By joining Active People, Healthy Nation, you and/or your organization become part of a nationwide initiative and can help increase physical activity in the United States, reduce healthcare costs, build walkable neighborhoods, support local economies, address health equity and improve health for individuals, families and your communities.
Joining is easy! Visit the Active People, Healthy Nation join webpage and click on the appropriate category: Individual Influencers, Organizations, or Community Champions. Enter your email address to become a supporter. There are a number of benefits including:
- Receiving access to resources and information through a monthly Active People, Healthy Nation newsletter.
- Receiving website badges, social media messages and other resources to help spread the word about your work and your support for the initiative.
- Connecting to a network of individuals, organizations and champions supporting Active People, Healthy Nation at national, tribal, state, and local levels.
What can I do?
Supporters have been taking action to support Active People, Healthy Nation and you can too! Here are a few examples of what other supporters have done and ways you can get involved:
- Individual influencers, organizations and champions have been posting on social media using #ActivePepole. Learn more about ways you can spread the word.
- The Maricopa Association of Governments passed the first Active People, Healthy Nation Proclamation, showing commitment to active transportation and increasing physical activity in their community. You can download the proclamation template and work with an elected official to pass one in your community!
- The Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity within CDC currently funds 61 recipients in states and communities across the country to create activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations, based on an evidence-based strategy to increase physical activity recommended by the U.S. Community Preventive Services Task Force. Projects vary across communities and can include connecting routes like sidewalks, paths, bicycle routes and public transit with destinations, such as homes, early care and education, schools, worksites, parks or recreation centers. See if there is a funded community where you live and get involved!
- The Physical Activity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (PAPREN) is a CDC-funded Network that brings diverse partners together to create environments that maximize physical activity. PAPREN is a key research partner of CDC’s Active People, Healthy Nation initiative, facilitating collaboration across sectors and providing evidence and tools that states and communities can use to implement policy approaches to promote physical activity. Learn more about PAPREN at-a-glance or visit the PAPREN website to join this network of researchers, planners, engineers, policy makers, green space managers, health professionals, physical activity and fitness professionals and others.
How can the American Fitness Index be used in conjunction with Active People, Healthy Nation?
Tools such as the American Fitness Index provide data that decision makers and partners can use when creating plans to improve physical activity in their communities. Communities can examine and share the data and go through a process of equitable community engagement to determine where to focus their efforts. Once they understand and identify where they want to work, communities can use the Active People, Healthy Nation strategies that work to narrow their focus on actions they want to take to increase active lifestyles.
- Fulton JE, Buchner DM, Carlson SA, et al. CDC’s Active People, Healthy NationSM: Creating an Active America, Together. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2018;15(7):469-473. doi:10.1123/jpah.2018-0249
- Schmid TL, Fulton JE, McMahon JM, Devlin HM, Rose KM, Petersen R. Delivering Physical Activity Strategies That Work: Active People, Healthy NationSM. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2021;18(4):352-356. doi:10.1123/jpah.2020-0656
Disclaimer: The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ken Rose, MPA, Branch Chief, Physical Activity and Health Branch, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Emily Ussery, PhD, Epidemiologist, Physical Activity and Health Branch, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; LCDR, US Public Health Service
Kaitlin Graff, MSW, MPH, Program Coordinator, McKing Consulting/Physical Activity and Health Branch, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention