EAGAN, Minn., Oct. 22, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nearly two-thirds of Minnesotans (61 percent) who have two or more community features to help them be physically active – such as sidewalks, parks and trails – report exercising three or more days a week, which is significantly more than those (42 percent) who have fewer community features, according to a new poll commissioned by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. The findings illustrate the vital role that communities can play in helping people more easily make physical activity a part of their daily lives.
The poll also found that 76 percent of Minnesotans agree or strongly agree that the way a community is built has an effect on how much physical activity people get, while only four percent disagree or strongly disagree. Twenty percent of those polled are uncertain.
"Communities play a critical role in making healthy and active lifestyles easier for all Minnesotans," said Janelle Waldock, director of the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. "The poll results are encouraging news for communities that offer and support opportunities for physical activity. They also pose important questions for communities that lack these features, such as sidewalks, bike paths and trails."
Community features that encourage active lifestyles are in demand
With the connection between a community's design and how much physical activity people get, it is no surprise that the majority of Minnesotans indicate they want communities to be built with an active lifestyle in mind.
Eighty-three percent of Minnesotans believe that future transportation projects should accommodate not only motorized vehicles, but also walkers and people on bicycles. Likewise, 70 percent of respondents say that if they were deciding where to live today, sidewalks and places to take walks would be important features to them. More than half say the same about being able to bike or walk to other places and activities in their community – such as grocery stores, schools or places of worship (54%), trails that connect to other places (52%) and easy access to parks and playgrounds (52%).
These responses also suggest strong support for complete communities, which are places where people can live, work, move and thrive in a healthier, more equitable, and more economically competitive way.
Some organizations are already working on making these features a reality in communities throughout Minnesota. The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition has helped create new bike lanes and expanded bike parking to make Minneapolis a more bike-friendly city, and is the lead organization in the "Bikeways for Everyone" campaign that aims to build 30 miles of protected bikeways by 2020. Across the river, St. Paul Women on Bikes is a community of bike enthusiasts who are working to make biking easier and safer for women and families in St. Paul.
Efforts are also taking hold in smaller communities which is especially important given that only about half of rural Minnesotans (51 percent) surveyed said they exercise or participate in physical activities three or more days a week. That's lower than both urban (60 percent) and suburban (61 percent) Minnesotans.
In northeastern Minnesota, Moving Matters is working to create safer and more accessible walking and biking routes throughout Cook County for people of all ages and abilities. The campaign, supported by the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and other local groups, helped create a "walk and talk" trail around the Great Expectations School in Grand Marais to help students stay active during recess, and is working to create a safe, connected and walkable Highway 61 through town.
"These organizations and the people behind them are creating real change to enable healthier, more active lifestyles in communities throughout Minnesota," Waldock said. "Further, they illustrate the power of people pulling together to address barriers in ways that are community-driven, sustainable and which create more vibrant neighborhoods in the long-run."
About the Poll
The public-opinion poll was commissioned by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and conducted online by ORC International's CARAVAN® Geographic Omnibus in August 2015. It consisted of 1,000 respondents in Minnesota, ages 18 and older. The margin of error is +/-3.1 percentage points for the full sample.
About the Center for Prevention
The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota delivers on Blue Cross' long-term commitment to improve the health of all Minnesotans by tackling the leading root causes of preventable disease: tobacco use, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating. Funded through proceeds from Blue Cross' historic lawsuit against the tobacco industry, they collaborate with organizations statewide to increase health equity, transform communities and create a healthier state. Visit CenterforPreventionMN.com for more information.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (bluecrossmn.com), with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago.
SOURCE Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota