What if you never had to pay for a gym membership to get strong, healthy and fit? No, I’m not talking about a home gym, but those sure are great too! I’m talking about making use of public space* you find in your own city to keep you active and moving. The field of active design is promoting just that.
The field of active design is spear headed by those that are planning and constructing our streets, buildings and neighborhoods. It aims to increase daily physical activity and thereby address the country’s obesity epidemic by redesigning public space. Some examples are simple public space design adjustments such as making stairs more visible, providing move welcoming streetscapes for pedestrians and bicyclists, promoting transit use, healthy eating and active recreation.
According to the NYC Active Design Guidelines, there are a couple key elements that will help redesign neighborhoods, streets and outdoor spaces to better promote health and fitness amongst the day to day citizenry:
(1) Improve access to transit and transit facilities by promoting different means of transit instead of just automobile usage, more people will walk to and from transit facilities.
(2) Improve access to plazas, parks, open spaces and recreational facilities and design these spaces to maximize their active use where appropriate.
(3) Improve access to full-service grocery stores and fresh produce – providing access to full grocery stores and fresh produce can go a long way in closing the healthy eating disparity gap found in low income areas across the country. By simply providing more opportunities to shop for healthy food, many populations and communities can significantly combat high rates of obesity and diabetes.
Can a city really help promote better, healthy and more active living? The folks that are promoting active design believe so and much of their research and claims is evidence based. So next time you’re wondering what’s going on in your local government, why don’t you look into their public design projects. You might be surprised to find out what’s going on.
Below is an example of a NYC project that is redefining the use of public space for more movement and more activity:
New York Introduced Its First Adult Playground
*Technically public space such as parks and pedestrian plazas are funded by taxpayer money.
Photo via maveric2003