While the relationship between physical activity and health has been well established, in the last couple of decades growing attention has been paid to the role of the physical environments that influence sedentary and active behaviors. In the wake of the obesity epidemic, public health professionals and urban planners have sought ways to leverage built environments to promote active lifestyles and obviate physical inactivity. Various studies have supported a positive association among mixed-use zoning, access to parks, and street walkability with physical activity and a negative association with body mass index (BMI). In order to promote active lifestyles, efforts have ranged from rejuvenating previously disinvested sections of urban environments to advocating pedestrian-centric architecture and urban planning.
CITY LIFE IS MOVING BODIES (CLIMB) AND HIKE THE HEIGHTS
CLIMB was launched in 2005 under the direction of Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove to increase physical activity among residents of Northern Manhattan, as well as to promote local economic development, increase neighborhood safety and build community relations. Led by a collaboration of organizations in Northern Manhattan interested in making the neighborhoods physically, socially and civically active CLIMB has developed a hiking train called “Giraffe Path” to link Central Park to the Cloisters through Manhattan’s eastern escarpment parks and held an annual community potluck called “Hike the Heights.” Through these activities CLIMB has helped to restore the beauty and utility of parks, reconnecting them to the people who need them. CLIMB will be leading a Jane Walk on May 3, 2014, the first to cover the entire Giraffe Path. On June 7th, which is National Trails Day, CLIMB is celebrating its Tenth Annual Hike the Heights.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND ACCESS TO PARKS IN NYC
Dr. Andrew Rundle and colleagues in the Built Environment and Health Research Group have been studying the link between neighborhood park access and physical activity and body size among residents of New York City. Neighborhood access to large park spaces (>6 acres) is associated with higher engagement in physical activity and lower body mass index among residents, but parks with high levels of graffiti are associated with lower levels of activity.