Bicycle facilities needed to beat obesity epidemic: report

Cycling facilities are essential to improving cities to overcome the obesity epidemic threatening the social and economic prosperity of the […]

Cycling facilities are essential to improving cities to overcome the obesity epidemic threatening the social and economic prosperity of the world, according to a new report.

Facilities designed for cycling and walking including cycle paths, protected bicycle facilities, safe street crossings, bike parking and footpaths were the key to reversing the growing epidemic of physical inactivity.

A main factor was traffic calming – street design features that reduce the volume and speed of traffic to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians. This included things like signs, speed bumps, kerb-cuts and “road diets” – reducing the number of traffic lanes to add to bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

The report titled “Designed to Move” reveals a growing epidemic of physical inactivity threatening the social and economic prosperity of the world. Presented by Nike, The American College of Sports Medicine, The International Council of Science & Physical Education and several other expert organisations, the report does two things: Consolidates the evidence for urgent action and lays out a simple action agenda to solve it.

It involved a total of 16 organisations and more than 80 people.

It details how society has engineered movement out of daily life, leading children to face a shorter life expectancy than their parents. The report calculates that if no action is taken, half of the Chinese and American populations will be physically inactive by 2030 along with a third of British and Brazilian populations, totalling one billion people. The report also outlines recommendations for how governments, civil societies, corporations and individuals, among others, can contribute to the solution.

Nike Brand President Charlie Denson joined world track and field star Allyson Felix on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City to spotlight the issue and to begin rallying partners in the field of physical activity.

“Nike was founded on the power of sport and its ability to unleash human potential,” Mr Denson said. “Unfortunately, in a relatively short period of time, we have seen physical activity designed and engineered out of our lives with dramatically underestimated human, social and economic impacts.”

Key call-outs from the report include:

  • The top 10 killers in the 50 highest-income countries are all connected to a lack of physical inactivity.
  • More deaths are now attributed to physical inactivity than smoking (5.3 million vs. 5 million respectively).
  • The global cost of the five leading non-communicable diseases totalled $US6.2 trillion in 2010, all linked to physical inactivity.

Central to the study is a finding that the first 10 years of a child’s life provide a critical window for creating a lifelong commitment to physical activity. With children dropping out of physical activity earlier in life, European children are 50 percent less active by age 15 than they were at age 9; in the U.S., children are 75 percent less active at age 15 than at age 9.

Nike’s goal is to not only change the conversation, but help collaborate with others to create a world where physical activity, play and sports are highly valued and an expected, enjoyable part of life.

The unifying vision in the report is twofold: Create early positive experiences for children in sports and physical activity, and integrate physical activity into everyday life.

“By committing to create a healthier future, we believe there is an opportunity for all of us to think differently and work together to help reverse those trends that continue to prevent children around the world from having access to sport,” Denson said. “We can break cycles of physical inactivity where they are deeply entrenched and where they are beginning to emerge.”

More information is at

Executive summary:

Full report:

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