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Making Physical Activity Accessible – a Public Health Perspective

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust
June 13, 2019

By Melissa Fochesato, Director of Mid Coast Center for Community Health & Wellness

Although many Americans understand the importance of physical activity, a majority of us are not getting enough. Physical inactivity is now a leading cause of death worldwide. Recently, public health experts have been studying the effects of a person’s environment on physical activity levels, and are finding that a person who lives next to recreation facilities, parks and trails are more likely to be active. Place matters!

Enjoy Harpswell’s many trails and preserves. It’s good for you! Check out our Get Outdoors page for more information. (Curt Chipman photo)

In 2015, the U.S. Surgeon General issued “Step it Up! A Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities,” challenging the nation to create safe and convenient places to walk and wheelchair roll, and create a culture that supports walking. Parks and trails are recognized as key to this culture, providing free or low cost places to be active, reduce stress, and promote social interaction. For those living close to busy roads, parks and trails can provide safe spaces to play and exercise. In addition, parks and trails are good for our environment, reducing air and water pollution and preserving habitats for plants and animals.

What can we do locally to support physical activity? There is strong evidence that creating and enhancing access to places for physical activity, and promoting these resources, increases physical activity in a community. Mid Coast Hospital has partnered with local physical activity partners to make physical activity more accessible, and promote the many free and low cost opportunities available in our community. Look for activity maps and other resources from our new “Get Active Southern Midcoast” collaborative.

We’ve also invested in our local infrastructure. Community mini grants have supported walking trails at schools; lighting, signs and other trail improvements; walk and bike to school events and bike racks; snow shoes, archery supplies, yoga instruction and ski lessons for classrooms and communities; bike rodeos and safety fairs; and the popular Southern Midcoast Trail and Winter Activity guides promoting free trails, beaches and indoor walking locations.

Help us promote our many local resources by sharing pictures and stories of your hikes, inviting friends to events, and supporting clubs and organizations working to make physical activity accessible to ALL community members.