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Factors Affecting Physical Activity: Policies and Regulations

Policies and regulations ensure that governments, communities, and organizations follow approved processes and procedures in their day-to-day operations. Governments, communities, and organizations that are committed to physical activity need to have policies that benefit the people and practitioners that work with them. Public support for policy change and advocacy by stakeholders and leaders is needed when policies must be changed.

Policies and regulations directly impact physical and social environments where people live and work. As a result, physical activity in these settings is also affected. Consider the following:

  • Boys playing in snowLand use: Policies about how land should be used or zoned affect individual and group-based physical activity. For example, municipalities determine the location of sports fields, parks, and walking trails. Are they near where people live or in a remote part of town?
  • Transportation: Transportation routes, policies, and regulations reflect who is given priority in a community—drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists.
  • Funding: Funding programs help communities and organizations provide physical activity opportunities through facilities, parks, and programs.
  • Budget allocation: Municipal and organizational budgets affect programs or buildings that support physical activity. Many factors influence public budgets, including economic realities, political leadership changes, and commitment to and awareness of the benefits physical activity.
  • Incentives: Some organization or government policies promote physical activity through incentives such as tax credits, fee subsidies, rewards for walking or cycling to work, or discounts for frequent users of recreational programs.
  • Public regulations: Regulations can promote or restrict physical activity. Examples of positive regulations include allowing children to play ball hockey in the streets or ensuring staff are well-trained to work with a variety of populations.

Father and daughter fishingSupporting Physical Activity through Policy and Regulation Development

Creating or changing policy requires political and organizational buy-in. A dedicated group of citizens or employees can muster a significant amount of public support and make this support known to the leadership. Advocacy is necessary to help shift policy. For change to occur at the policy level, physical activity and health need to be a priority for community members, leaders, and government representatives.

Of course, simply having policies and regulations in place doesn’t guarantee their effectiveness. Policies can encourage or discourage participation, be easy to understand and implement or complicated, address language differences or not. When advocating for policies and regulations, you need to make sure that they will be effective.

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