Greenway Trails = Improved Community Health

The design and planning of our communities plays a major part in our health and wellbeing. The consequences of sprawl are very serious for many reasons. Here’s just one:

The Challenges in Health: Getting America Moving Again

Physical inactivity is a major cause of sickness and disease in the United States. Inactivity – and its close companion, obesity – are responsible for as many as 23 percent of all premature deaths from the major chronic diseases. This is true despite many recent advances in the prevention and treatment of these diseases. Inactivity and obesity threaten the current and future health of millions of Americans.

Sound depressing? Sure, but here’s another way to think of it: Americans aren’t overweight, they’re just under-walked and under-biked!

Take a quick look at some sobering statistics:

* Obesity is associated with a lot of trouble we don’t want for ourselves or our families: heart disease, certain types of cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, stroke, arthritis, breathing problems, and psychological disorders, such as depression.

* The percentage of overweight adolescents has nearly tripled in the past two decades. In 1999, 13 percent of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years were overweight.

Back in 1918, the U.S. Children’s Bureau said, “The health of the child is the power of the nation.” That’s why people in public health today are so alarmed about the percentage of overweight young people. They know that all types of physical activity tend to decline as we get older.

* Did we mention expensive? The cost of health problems associated with obesity in the United States in 2000 was estimated to be a staggering $117 billion.

Let’s examine what’s fueling our troubling trends.

One major factor is urban sprawl and a transportation system designed for cars, rather than people. The decline in physical activity – and the related surge in obesity – parallels the lack of opportunities we have to bicycle and walk in and beyond our neighborhoods.

Walking and bicycling aren’t just about enjoying the outdoors: they are key components of a strong nation’s public-health plan. By taking a walk or going for a bike ride, you are actually practicing preventative medicine. The opportunities that exist (or don’t exist) to enjoy these activities are a reflection of your community’s commitment to the health and well-being of you and your neighbors.

From The National Center for Bicycling and Walking (