Washington State Nutrition & Physical Activity Plan
Physical Activity Objective I

Increase the number of people who have access to free or low cost recreational opportunities for physical activity

People who are physically active benefit from a sense of well-being that comes from physical fitness and an enhanced ability to cope with the stresses of daily life.(1,2) Compared to their sedentary neighbors, people who are active are more likely to maintain a healthy weight and less likely to develop chronic diseases. (2,3,4,5).

Families and Individuals

The most important thing that most Washington residents can do to maintain a healthy weight is to be active. At a minimum, adults need 30 minutes of moderate physical activity

In 2005, about two-thirds
of Washington adults were physically active at the recommended level.
five or more days per week or 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity three or more days per week.(6)Longer and more frequent physical activity leads to even better health. For weight loss and maintaining weight loss, 40 to 90 minutes of daily activity may be needed.(3) Many people want to be active, but the demands of work and family life, limited financial resources and other barriers may interfere with good intentions to live a healthier lifestyle. There are ways to work through some of the issues associated with physical activity.(7)

  • Time: Physical activity can be done in small sessions throughout the day. Walking for just ten minutes, three times a day meets the recommendations.
  • Motivation: Many people find that social support makes a big difference. Walking partners, low cost group activities, and family outings all encourage activity.
  • Enjoyment: Most people can find something they enjoy; physical activity opportunities range from skate parks for youth to water aerobics for older adults. Programs like Washington Health Foundation’s Governor’s Health Bowl build in friendly competition and rewards for physical activity.
  • Convenience: Adults are more likely to be active when safe, friendly, and affordable facilities are close to home or work. Flexible work schedules make it easier to fit physical activity into daily life.
  • Key Points

    • Everybody can benefit from physical activity.
    • Just 10 minutes of physical activity three times a day makes a difference for fitness and health.
    • It’s easier to be active when worksite policies and environments promote activity.
    • Low-income residents are less likely to have access to facilities for physical activity; low-cost facilities in low-income neighborhoods could make a real difference.
  • Disability: Physical activity is part of a healthy life for everybody. There are individualized planning tools and links to a wide variety of assistive devices and programs on the Web site of the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.

Making it Easier to be Physically Active

Washington has beautiful parks and natural places for outdoor activities. However, Washington residents are more likely to choose recreational activities that are low cost and close to home.(8) Living within one mile of recreational facilities increases the likeliness of regularly getting exercise.(9) In every community there are opportunities to create or enhance facilities for physical activity in public places like schools, community centers, malls and parks. Free or reduced cost opportunities will encourage residents who are the least likely to be active to take advantage of these resources.

Residents who walk and bicycle for recreation often use streets and roads. Safety is one of the most important attributes of a recreational setting,(10) and motor vehicle traffic can be an intimidating and real threat to pedestrian and bicycle safety. Local trails and paths separated from traffic are safer than streets and roads.

Strategies for Success

Cultural Competence

Local governments should collaborate with low-income, disabled, and diverse community representatives when recreation facilities are planned, sited, constructed and managed.

Ethnically Diverse Walking Groups

Walking is the most common form of physical activity for older adults. Many seniors enjoy the feeling of safety and camaraderie that comes with walking with a group in their own neighborhood. The Sound Steps program includes weekly organized walks, walking logs, incentives and celebrations for groups of people aged 50 and older. Participants report increased physical activity, health improvements, and enhanced sense of community. Groups that walk in the ethnically diverse communities of south Seattle express pride in doing something positive and “reclaiming” the neighborhood.

Hispanic Families

In focus groups Mexican American adults say that family-based physical activity is important. Focus group participants encourage approaches that emphasize the health of the whole family. Instead of individual “exercise” programs for women, facilities can develop activities that attract mothers, fathers, children and youth.


Signs and Symbols

Trailhead Marker

This symbol for trails was developed by NPS for Mt Vernon urban trails to use on their urban trails map. It signifies a kiosk location where additional information is available to trail users.

Statewide Campaigns

The Washington Health Foundation sponsors the Governor's Health Bowl, an annual competition that offers a fun opportunity for individual champions, organizations and schools involved in the Healthiest State in the Nation Campaign to build challenges around fitness and knowledge about our state's health.