Bikeway and walkway

Healthy Activity Environment

Building Places that Get People Moving

Our surroundings can have a profound impact on our actions. This is especially so when it comes to physical activity. If a city has few sidewalks, for example, few people will walk places. If there are no safe places to ride bikes, few people will commute by bike to work or school. If there are no gyms nearby, few people will have a safe and comfortable place to exercise.

This section of the website summarizes broad recommendations for improving the physical activity environment, based on a review of expert guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization, and other major governmental, professional, and public health advocacy organizations. While many of the recommendations are aimed at the local level, state and national governments also play an important role. For more detailed guidance on these recommendations and ideas for putting them into practice, explore the source list on each page, as well as the links to useful toolkits and other resources. Keep in mind that these recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in the physical activity environment.

Building activity into daily life means changing the way that our communities are built.

Terms of Use

The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.