Physical activity – community strategies

Regular physical activity is important because it reduces the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers. In 2012, Alberta researchers estimated that approximately 1,100 cancer cases in the province could be linked to a lack of physical activity.1

Getting enough physical activity is not only a matter of personal choice, it can also be positively influenced by community environments.

When our communities implement multi-component community-wide interventions, they are better able to strengthen four action areas: the social environment, the physical environment, the economic environment and the policy environment. These action areas are supported by community leadership and learning from experience.

Multi-component community-wide interventions to increasing physical activity might include implementing physical activity programs. Physical activity programs could be supported by making changes to the built environment (e.g., pathways, sidewalks, etc.) that promote physical activity and spreading the word about the benefits of physical activity.

Although multi-component community-wide interventions are ideal, communities need to start where they are at! This may mean starting with one strategy, environment or setting and then building on it as you move towards thinking broadly about physical activity.

Ways to take action

All of the evidence-informed strategies are tried, tested and useful strategies that are based on current research. See the methods section for more information on how these strategies were developed.

Changing the social environment is about building awareness and promoting positive attitudes and social norms around physical activity.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the social environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the physical, economic and policy environments. 

Changing the physical environment is about ensuring that opportunities for physical activity, including active transportation, are more visible, accessible and safer in the community.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the physical environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, economic and policy environments. 

Changing the economic environment is about ensuring all community members have access to affordable physical activity opportunities.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the economic environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, physical and policy environments. 

Policy change is about considering ways to improve access and availability of community physical activity opportunities.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the policy environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, physical and economic environments.

  1. Brenner DR, Poirier AE, Grundy A, Khandwala F, McFadden A, Friedenreich CM. Cancer incidence attributable to inadequate physical activity in Alberta in 2012. CMAJ Open. 2017;5(2):E344. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20160044. Available from: http://cmajopen.ca/content/5/2/E338.full.pdf+html.
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