FROM THE URBAN HEALTH MATTERS BLOG BY ELLIE DEGARMO
New Yorkers are exercising less than they did five years ago and at a rate below that of the average American. That’s what a newly released Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) report tells us. BRFSS, an annual nationwide survey, assessed physical activity among American adults by measuring Leisure-Time Physical Activity (LTPA)—a fancy term used to encompass a broad range of activities like gardening, swimming, and golf.
The survey findings are particularly important tools for evaluating the progress made towards the New York State (NYS) Prevention Agenda (NYSPA). The NYSPA identifies increasing physical activity, as a way to prevent chronic disease, as one of five core goals. Unfortunately, this goal has not been met. The NYSPA calls for increasing exercise rates by 5 percent, from 73.7 percent in 2011, to 77.4 percent by the end of 2018.
So far, New Yorkers have failed to hit this target and are now farther from it than in 2011. By 2015, the percentage had actually dropped 3 percent, to 70.7, the lowest it had been for five years, slipping below the national average of 73.8 percent.
As New Yorkers spend more time sitting and less time walking, running, riding bikes or otherwise on the move, their chances of developing chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes, increase. To improve this situation, the NYSPA offers several suggestions, such as investing in community-based organizations dedicated to increasing physical activity, as well as creating safe public spaces for exercise.
Communities across the state are also working toward the goal. For example, David Sandman, PhD, president and CEO of the New York State Health Foundation, discusses the revamping and renaming of the Corning Riverfront Park in Albany as a successful way of attracting more visitors to the site.
The survey also revealed that some NYS residents were more likely to get a healthy amount of physical activity than others. People living with disabilities or struggling with obesity spent less time engaged in physical activity. Rates were also lower in some ethnic groups, such as Hispanic adults, and among people with less than a high school education.
In an ongoing effort to address disparities, the NYSPA‘s mission includes a commitment to improving these discrepancies: “reduce health disparities for racial, ethnic, disability, and low socioeconomic groups, as well as other populations who experience them.”
Specifically tailoring interventions to certain groups has also proven to increase physical activity among individuals in communities facing greater health disparities. Another article by Sandman demonstrates this by explaining the success of the Citi Bike program in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Making Citi Bikes available in Bedford Stuyvesant adds to local resources like the YMCA and may help residents address high rates of obesity and diabetes.
As part of the Academy’s dedication to improving health in New York City and State, our Advancing Prevention Project and Designing a Strong and Healthy NY project teams energetically support the BRFSS report’s call to increase opportunities for physical activity for all New Yorkers. Continuing to turn NYSPA objectives into action is one of the best ways to help all New York communities get moving.