data are useful at the ecologic level in order to describe lifestyle trends among the population and to provide background data for community-based interventions that eventually affect public policy. Environmental interventions that promote change in risk conditions at the community level have a greater public health impact than attempting to change risk factors at the individual level. Environmental strategies more directly related to promoting an active lifestyle involve altering the built environment in which people spend much of their time –
the community, the workplace, and the school. The specific characteristics of the built environment most closely related to physical activity remained to be determined, however. A recent report from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and the IOM outlines a number of recommendations pertaining to physical activity and the built environment (51). These recommendations state the primary need for multidisciplinary and inter-agency research (particularly longitudinal research and “natural experiments”) linking specific aspects of the built environment with different types of physical activity. Ecological studies that can geocode physical activity and health data from surveillance systems such as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) or from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) could provide useful information on the environment and the specific locations of where low activity and/or high prevalence of overweight is occurring. Similarly, statistical tools such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) can provide more detailed information on the built environment (land use, sidewalks, and green spaces) to link with surveillance data on physical activity patterns and various health indicators like obesity within a community. These data are also quite useful in tracking how changes to the environment affect changes in behavior and in subsequent health outcomes. The Health Impact Statement historically has been used in environmental risk assessment to inform the public of the health consequences of various actions (e.g., the building of a new manufacturing plant in the community) and generally they are effective at involving inter- agency action and public consensus. Since available evidence suggests that the built environment plays a major facilitating role in promoting an active lifestyle, urban planners, local zoning officials, those responsible for the construction of residences, developments, and supporting transportation systems, and members of the community must work together in the design of more activity-friendly environments. Go to: CONCLUSIONS Most research to date suggests that exercise is more effective in the prevention of overweight and obesity than it is in its reversal. Moreover, high intensity interval walking programs can improve peak aerobic capacity and improve cardiovascular risk factors in middle-aged sedentary individuals (52) uture research efforts should focus on the prevention of excess weight gain over the life span.
- Spring '17
- The Land, physical activity