Walking is a great way for individuals of all ages and abilities to increase physical activity. Walking is easy and requires no equipment and it is the most common form of activity for people across the nation. Walking can also serve multiple purposes including exercise, transportation, and for fun, and by making walking easier for people, communities can see multiple benefits.
Similar to national data, a recent South Dakota phone survey found that the most preferred form of exercise for South Dakotan adults is walking. Further, this study revealed the simplest way to increase physical activity among inactive South Dakotans is to simply get them to walk more1.
The benefits of walking are great and it is has received great national attention, in fact the U.S. Surgeon General recently released a Call to Action on Walking and Walkable Communities for all Americans. Improving walkability in a community means to create or enhance areas in a community to make it easy and safe for community members of all abilities to walk, including individuals in wheelchairs, bikers, skaters and runners. Due to the rural nature of South Dakota, creating walkable communities may come with barriers and challenges that other states and regions may not see.
South Dakota communities may have services, homes and schools located far apart. These community differences may make active transportation (actively traveling from one destination to the next ) more challenging to promote. In fact, it may make active transport completely unrealistic. Instead, an alternative focus to promote walking is through active recreation (i.e. playgrounds, parks, walking trails)2 . In rural environments, building and enhancing amenities (parks, playgrounds) already in the community and eliminating potential barriers such as climate, safety, cost and access to facilities are key issues to address to promote active community members.
Below are some helpful resources to overcome barriers and challenges rural environments may face when promoting active living:
- Promoting Active Living in a Small Community
- Stories from a Small Town
- Rural Communities: Safe Routes to School
- Complete Streets Work in Rural Communities