Study shows community environment influences physical activity

More than half of survey respondents rank walkable routes in the community as the first or second most important factor positively influencing their physical activity.
At a time when 61 percent of survey respondents cite improved physical activity as a priority resolution for the new year, a new study conducted for the YMCA of the USA by Greenfield Online, Inc., reveals that seven out of 10 Americans say their community environment influences their level of physical activity and overall health. YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the nation's 2,595 YMCAs.

The survey was released at the YMCA Activate America: Pioneering Healthier Communities National Conference, which gathers 230 leaders from urban and rural communities across the U.S. who are charged with re-engineering their hometowns into healthier environments where physical activity can be enjoyed and the rising obesity epidemic arrested through a combination of sustainable initiatives.

More than half (56 percent) of survey respondents rank walkable routes in the community as the first or second most important factor positively influencing their physical activity, followed by access to local parks (28 percent) and community bike paths (26 percent).

"This survey validates the important role government, community leaders and organizations must play in transforming their communities into healthier environments and reversing rising rates of obesity and chronic disease," said Kenneth L. Gladish, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer, YMCA of the USA.

"We do know that to be successful, change must start at the grassroots level. And, we are gratified by the fact after just one year, the YMCA Activate America: Pioneering Healthier Communities Project is making a measurable impact on local citizens by mobilizing effective public-private partnerships."

According to Dr. Gladish, of keen interest to conference attendees, elected officials and public health figures, alike, will be the finding that 43 percent of Americans believe, after themselves, government and health insurers should share the lead responsibility for creating healthier communities. Community leaders and organizers are the parties ranked as the second and third most responsible, followed by employers and corporations.

The YMCA Activate America initiative aims to respond to the current public health challenge precisely by creating the collaborative structure supported by the public. The YMCA Activate America: Pioneering Healthier Communities Project is rooted in the principle that only community-based teams will truly be able to create sustainable change. It includes elected officials, public health decision makers and corporate leaders and others who have committed to create public-private partnerships that will realize long-lasting, meaningful change for their communities.

Attitudes about health and wellness at school, home and work

When asked to rank a list of potential barriers to physical activity and good nutrition, 40 percent of respondents cite lack of time as the primary or secondary reason. The third most common barrier is the ease and convenience of fast food.

Fifty-four percent of U.S. consumers say more economic pricing of nutritious foods would be the first or second most valuable change to help them and their family improve their physical health. Also among the top ranked changes are safer outdoor environments (26 percent) and workplace wellness programs (19 percent).

Community change agents

Two out of every 10 Americans say they see a personal role for themselves to make their local community a place that advocates better health. And, they can see well-known personalities working in this quest to bring about community change.

Perhaps it's not surprising that personalities long associated with persistence, determination and successful realization of their goals -- including most notably Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong (34 percent) and media maven Oprah Winfrey (30 percent) -- were the top picks, followed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (12 percent) and former President Bill Clinton (11 percent).

The online survey of 1086 male and female adults (18-years-old and over) was conducted by Greenfield Online, Inc. in November 2005.

The Second Annual YMCA Activate America: Pioneering Healthier Communities National Conference is focused on educating community leaders on strategies and models to effect solutions that can be replicated nationwide. Launched in 2004 with 14 communities, this project has spread to 21 communities in 2005 -- bringing the total number of communities involved nationwide to 35. It's part of the multi-year YMCA Activate America initiative, the YMCA's long-term national mobilization effort that seeks to improve the health and wellness of millions of Americans.

About Greenfield Online
Greenfield Online, headquartered in Wilton, CT, is a leading independent provider of Internet survey solutions to the global marketing research industry. The company operates in Europe through its Ciao subsidiary. The company has built and actively manages one of the world's largest communities of online panels, communities and affiliates. This global community allows Greenfield to supply its clients with diverse, demographically representative survey research data. For more information visit and To join the panel, visit

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