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Environmental and Policy Approaches to Increase Physical Activity: Creation of or Enhanced Access to Places for Physical Activity Combined with Informational Outreach Activities

Creation of or enhancing access to places for physical activity involves the efforts of worksites, coalitions, agencies, and communities as they attempt to change the local environment to create opportunities for physical activity. Such changes include creating walking trails, building exercise facilities, or providing access to existing nearby facilities.

These multicomponent programs were evaluated as a “combined package” because it was not possible to separate out the effects of each individual component.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends the creation of or enhanced access to places for physical activity based on strong evidence of their effectiveness in increasing physical activity and improving physical fitness.

Task Force findings

Results from the Systematic Review

Ten studies qualified for the review.

  • In all 10 studies reviewed, creating or enhancing access to places for physical activity was effective in getting people to exercise more.
    • Aerobic capacity: median increase of 5.1% (Interquartile interval [IQI]: 2.8% to 9.6%; 8 study arms)
    • Energy expenditure: median increase of 8.2% (IQI: -2.0% to 24.6%; 3 study arms)
    • Percentage of participants reporting some leisure-time physical activity: median increase of 2.9% (IQI: -6.0% to 8.5%; 4 study arms)
    • Exercise score: median increase of 13.7% (IQI: -1.8% to 69.6%; 6 study arms)
  • Most of the studies also reported weight losses or decreases in body fat among program participants.
  • Many of these programs train participants to use exercise equipment and offer health behavior education, risk factor screening, referrals to physicians or additional services, health and fitness programs, and support or buddy systems.
  • These interventions were effective among both men and women and in various settings, including industrial plants, universities, federal agencies, and low-income communities.
  • If appropriately adapted to the target populations, these interventions should be applicable to diverse settings and groups.

These results were based on a systematic review of all available studies, conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to increasing physical activity.

image of planetFind a Research-tested Intervention Program (RTIP) External Web Site Icon about the creation of or enhanced access to places for physical activity combined with informational outreach activities (What is an RTIP?).

Supporting Materials


Kahn EB, Ramsey LT, Brownson R, et al. The effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity: a systematic review. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 3.14 MB] Am J Prev Med 2002;22(4S):73-107.

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 70 kB] Am J Prev Med 2002;22 (4S):67-72.

CDC. Increasing physical activity. A report on recommendations of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services. MMWR 2001;50 (RR-18):1-16. External Web Site Icon

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Physical activity. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 302 kB] In : Zaza S, Briss PA, Harris KW, eds. The Guide to Community Preventive Services: What Works to Promote Health? Atlanta (GA): Oxford University Press;2005:80-113.

Read other Community Guide publications about Increasing Physical Activity in our library.

Promotional Materials

Action Guides

More promotional materials for Community Guide reviews about Increasing Physical Activity.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Environmental and policy approaches to increase physical activity: creation of or enhanced access to places for physical activity combined with informational outreach activities. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: May 2001