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Be Active in 2019 – DHHS and Partners Strive to Create Healthy, Walkable Communities

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 Lincoln – Is increasing physical activity on your list of New Year’s resolutions? Being active is one of the most important things that Nebraskans of all ages can do to improve overall health.

The new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans provide updated recommendations for how much time, how intense, and what type of activities can help to build and improve health. To achieve the health benefits of an active lifestyle, the Guidelines recommend:

  • Preschool-aged children should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development.
  • Children and adolescents 6-17 years old should do 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily inclusive of aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities.
  • Adults (ages 17-65) should move more and sit less throughout the day. For substantial health benefits adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity mostly through aerobic activity. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week.
  • Older adults (65+) should meet the guidelines set for adults, but should include balance training along with muscle-strengthening activities.
  • Individuals with chronic conditions or symptoms should be under the care of a health care provider and should engage in regular physical activity according to their abilities and should avoid any inactivity.

In 2017, only 50 percent of Nebraska adults were meeting the aerobic guidelines and only 30 percent of adults were meeting the strengthening guidelines for physical activity according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has prioritized efforts to increase physical activity through the DHHS Business Plan and is working closely with several local communities to implement the Nebraska Walkable Communities Initiative.

“Walking is one of the simplest forms of physical activity,” says Brian Coyle, DHHS State Physical Activity Coordinator. “If we have safe and inviting places to be able to walk, ride, roll and stroll, then we can get more people up and moving.”

DHHS has been engaging with communities and local health departments across the state to implement the initiative since 2014, including Henderson.

Henderson identified specific areas that would help improve health and wellness of its citizens including extending walking/biking trails, planning for a community center and developing new programs to encourage physical activity.

“Henderson has been able to define a vision that will guide them to a healthier community, making it safer and easier for residents to be active. Through the framework provided by the Nebraska Walkable Communities Initiative and Henderson leadership’s hard work, they have laid a foundation for achieving their health and wellness goals. It is an honor to be a partner with the Henderson community and DHHS on this important endeavor,” said Laura McDougall, Executive Director of the Four Corners Health Department, which serves Henderson.

“Increasing health and wellness in our community has been a discussion point in and around Henderson for a long time,” said Kelsey Bergen, Henderson Chamber Director.  “While conversations have been happening, it has been hard to gain traction on the topic and make progress towards health and wellness with no clear goals in place.  Participating in the Nebraska Walkable Communities Initiative not only helped us solidify the three key areas the community wants us to focus on, but it also helped us create clear goals and identify the key stakeholders who can make these projects happen.”

Henderson completed its community summit, which focuses on local strategies to increase physical activity and health, at the end of October. Henderson is now beginning the implementation phase of the work.

Through the Nebraska Walkable Communities Initiative, DHHS partners with communities to engage local leaders, develop a team-based approach to planning, hold a community summit, develop a local community-defined action plan, and solidify a leadership team in partnership with community organizations and community members to carry out the activities. Many of the activities focus on education and awareness, trail and sidewalk projects, signage projects, and policy-based initiatives such as Complete Streets policies.

Some of the other communities that have participated in the initiative include Hebron, Grand Island, Scottsbluff, Gering, Terrytown, Fairbury and Omaha, and other communities continue to implement their community action plans.

If communities are interested in working with DHHS or are looking for key resources regarding the Nebraska Walkable Communities Initiative, please contact Brian Coyle, DHHS State Physical Activity Coordinator at brian.coyle@nebraska.gov or 402-471-1045. For additional resources and information regarding the new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, please visit: https://health.gov/paguidelines/.

Follow DHHS on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the health of Nebraskans.

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