Risk Factor: Physical Activity Levels

Regular exercise decreases the risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and both colon and breast cancer risk. Exercise also helps individuals manage their weight, boosts energy, improves mood, and supports better sleep. Unfortunately, there are barriers to exercise built into many communities. Parents may want their kids to be more physically active and spend more time outdoors, but are the neighborhood streets safe for playing? Does the community have playgrounds and sidewalks? Adults may want to exercise, but do they have time in between work? Is there a gym facility nearby, and is it affordable? 

  • According to Healthy People 2020 data, adults from racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to engage in physical activity, with 26% of non-hispanic whites, 40% of non-hispanic blacks, and 42% of Hispanics or Latinos engaging in NO leisure-time physical activity2 
  • Inequalities in the built environment underlie health disparities in physical activity and obesity: 
    • Lower SES and minority neighborhoods are less likely to have safe, walkable streets that promote outdoor exercise and play.6
    • Spaces for physical activity, including gyms, parks, YMCAs, etc, are distributed inequitably across neighborhoods, with lower SES and high minority neighborhoods at the highest risk for lack of physical activity and recreational facilities7
  • The greatest improvements in health status are seen when people who are least fit become physically active! 
  • In the Greater New Haven Area, many neighborhoods have assets that can increase physical activity, however there are major concerns about the physical safety and quality of recreational facilities in the central, lower-income city neighborhoods4

2. Healthy People 2020. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion [Internet]. 2016. 

4. Abraham M, Buchanan M. Greater New Haven Community Index. New Haven, CT: DataHaven;2016. 

6. Taylor WC. Disparities in Physical Activity Among Low-Income and Racial/Ethnic Minority Communities: What Can We Do? Institute of Medicine of the National Academies: the National Academy of Sciences;2015. 

7. Moore LV, Diez Roux AV, Evenson KR, McGinn AP, Brines SJ. Availability of recreational resources in minority and low socioeconomic status areas. Am J Prev Med. 2008;34(1):16-22.