healthy communities through physical activities

Building Strong and Healthy Communities Through Physical Activity

Strong and healthy communities don’t happen by accident. They’re formed as part of an intentional multi-pronged approach that involves the environment, physical activities, and even local governments. When new communities are formed, a lot goes into planning to ensure a healthy environment. Sidewalks, bike trails, and even places for respite like parks and ponds are carefully considered. But healthy communities aren’t just for new neighborhoods that are still in the planning stage. Any community can be transformed into a healthy community through simple changes, one step at a time. As an afterschool activity or local business, how can you help form the backbone of a strong and healthy community through physical activity? 

healthy communities

Start Small

A community, by definition, is a group of people living in a particular area who share common attitudes, interests, and goals. Your physical activity program is in fact, a tiny community that can have a ripple effect on the surrounding community at large. A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that those who hang out with healthier people are more likely to exercise more and eat healthier. For kids who love (or are learning to love) physical activity, the more engaged they are, the more that excitement spills over to their friends, families, and communities. Your small community of healthy kids can begin to transform their own families and communities. With encouragement and education, healthy kids may make healthier food choices, healthy lifestyle choices, and even choices in the friends they hang out with, as they seek to find other kids who also love physical activity and movement.

Be a Place Where Kids Want to Go

Physical Activity is Contagious. Whether you’re an afterschool program or a brick and mortar standalone, when your program is fun, encouraging, engaging, and inclusive, kids want to come. The more kids grow to love your program, the more they grow to love physical activity as a whole. They discover that activity isn’t an enemy, movement is fun, and they’ll start to move more on their own, at home, and in other environments.

Be a Place Where Kids Want to Go

Create A Safe Haven

In our last post, we talked about extending the olive branch to the community and collaborating with the community to engage in recreation together. Safe communities have statistically healthier options for physical activity than unsafe communities and children in safer communities are more likely to walk to school, play outside, and go to local parks. However, not every physical activity program or afterschool program resides in the safest of communities. While the community is working to improve local safety through the help of law enforcement, involvement programs, and rehabilitation efforts it’s even more important that your program is a refuge for kids, so they can have that physical activity without fear or worry of their own safety. Your program can be well-known as a sanctuary, providing peace to both kids and caregivers alike.    

Building a strong community through physical activity doesn’t happen overnight.

It happens one jump rope, one folklorico dance, and one martial arts class at a time. Consistency is key! When you focus on building the best program you can, fostering inclusion and relationships between the children in your classes in a safe environment, and creating a safe space within your community you’ll start to see your community become stronger and healthier, first with your kids, and then with their families. As your community becomes stronger, you’ll begin to see the ripple effects physical activity can have in the community, not just for today but generations to come. 

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