What is Active Living?
“Active Living is a way of life that integrates physical activity into daily routines. The goal is to accumulate at least 30 minutes of activity each day. Individuals may achieve this by walking or bicycling for transportation, exercise or pleasure; playing in the park; working in the yard; taking the stairs; and using recreation facilities.”
Active Living is the lost art or practice of actively engaging our physical environment. We have all heard the nostalgic anecdote of American cities that were once designed for and accommodated people. In that bygone era, public places, local stores, and transit stops were readily accessible by foot or bike, but today we see and experience a different story. This is the underlying premise of Active Living.
Many communities in this nation have arguably become places without destinations and spaces without meaning. In other words, while we live there, we fail to truly “live” in them. We find it difficult, if not impossible, to walk or bike to any conceivable destination of importance, and few places actually encourage people to be active.
These are the challenges that Active Living by Design wants to overcome, and the opportunities it wants to create simply embrace the ideal of having choices to engage the built and natural environment with our feet or pedals. (Comments by Richard Killingsworth, MPH, Director of Active Living by Design. June 2002)
Despite overwhelming evidence confirming the health benefits of regular physical activity, such as promoting psychological well-being, maintaining healthy weight, and reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and certain forms of cancer, and research suggesting physical inactivity is the primary factor in approximately 200,000 annual deaths, 29 percent of American adults are sedentary, and 70 percent do not achieve the recommended 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity at least five days per week.*
One explanation for people not being more physically active may be that many opportunities to be active have been engineered out of daily routines in favor of convenience. For example, the automobile increasingly replaces walking, biking, and public transportation. According to the 1995 National Personal Transportation Survey, 25 percent of all trips are one mile or less, yet 75 percent are made by car. These data may reflect the absence of sidewalks, bikeways and trails in most communities which, when they are provided, often have limited connections to destinations. These barriers limit choices and affect citizens’ ability to pursue regular physical activity as part of their daily lives.*