New Gallup, Healthways Research Shows Positive Impact of Active Living Environments

Nov 09, 2016 at 08:21 am by Staff

Nashville-based Healthways, a Sharecare company, and leading management consulting firm, Gallup, have released new research assessing active living factors within large and mid-sized communities across the United States. This report, part of the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being series, examines the active living infrastructure within 48 medium and large metro communities across the U.S. and the respective impact on various aspects of residents' well-being.

Gallup and Healthways analyzed four key components of a community's built environment including walkability, bike-ability, availability of parks, and public transit structure to calculate an active living score. Based on this analysis, Boston is the number one active living community in the U.S., with San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and Washington D.C. rounding out the top five.

Residents in these five highest ranked active living communities have, on average, significantly lower rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression as compared to residents in the five lowest ranked active living communities. The highest active living communities also report better health behaviors including higher rates of exercise, healthy eating, and fresh produce consumption, and lower rates of smoking.

Communities around the country are taking an environmental approach to community health by creating vibrant, livable, walkable, and bikeable public spaces that foster active living and high well-being.

Examples include:

Since 2010, the California Beach Cities - Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach - have collectively secured over $8.1 million in transportation funding for walkability, bike-ability, and livability projects. These projects helped the Beach Cities reduce the number of residents who are above normal weight by 15 percent since 2010. Additionally, the smoking rate has declined by 17 percent bringing the smoking rate in the Beach Cities to 8.9 percent, well below the national average of 18 percent.

The Iowa community of Muscatine added approximately 10 miles of new sidewalks and trails including a 10-foot-wide trail that now counts 10,000 pedestrian trips a year, improving community connectivity and making it easier for residents to move naturally. Since 2012, Muscatine has seen a 17 percent increase in the percentage of residents who exercise regularly, rising to 55.8 percent in 2016; and has seen a drop of 13.6 percent for those who report significant daily stress.

"Communities that want to promote well-being, balance city budgets, attract the best new workforces, and spur economic growth should prioritize investments that encourage active living," said Dan Burden, director of innovation and inspiration, Blue Zones, LLC. "From protected bike lanes, mixed use development, trails, and wide sidewalks to landscaping and other amenities, it's been proven that an active environment results in healthier citizens, steadier long-term growth, and a more vibrant economy."

As the leading community transformation program in the country, the Blue Zones Project® is a growing nationwide well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier--community by community--through permanent changes to environment, policy, and social networks. Founded by National Geographic Fellow and best-selling author Dan Buettner to leverage public and private partnerships, the Blue Zones Project® draws upon more than 200 evidence-based practices to help restaurants, schools, churches, and worksites make sustainable changes that encourage healthier choices.

"Sustainable, lasting well-being becomes achievable when residents, city leaders, businesses, schools, and other partners work together to the benefit of public health," said Katrina Worlund, senior vice president of the Blue Zones Project® at Healthways. "In addition to healthier populations, communities benefit by lower healthcare costs, less chronic disease and improved productivity."

For more information and to access the complete report, "State of American Well-Being: Active Living Environment in U.S. Communities," visit

Sections: Business/Tech