Years of research tell us there are many influences on young people’s physical activity (PA), including psychological, social, educational, and environmental. Researchers have evaluated interventions focused on these factors and found several to be effective. However, little of what has been proven effective has been widely implemented or translated for underresourced communities and communities of color. Applying an equity lens to promoting PA requires evaluation of evidence-based interventions in one population and then adaptation and implementation in other populations. Underlying inequities that lead to disparities in PA can be addressed by tailoring interventions to appeal to different cultures. We recommend high-priority studies, paying specific attention to equity.

There is a growing body of evidence on the influence of the built environment—places where we live, work, and play—on youth obesity, physical inactivity, and chronic diseases. Studies have established relationships between PA and availability of green and recreational space, higher degrees of neighborhood safety, more walkable neighborhood design, increased access to healthy food, and active modes of transportation (e.g., walking, biking).

When people live near parks, especially within a 10-minute walk, they get used more frequently. Their proximity also creates opportunities to gain PA by walking or biking to and from parks. Unfortunately, not every child is within a 10-minute walk of a safe, well-maintained, and programmed park or playground. Youth from lower-income communities of color tend to be those with limited access, and the parks near them often have inadequate amenities and programming.

Current approaches to school PA promotion recognize multiple strategies to achieve the recommended 30 minutes daily of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) within school time. The Institute of Medicine recommended a “whole-of-school approach” to school PA: This means that educators promote active transport to and from school, active classroom breaks, recess, and after-school programs, as well as daily physical education.

Rural areas have significant geographic dispersion, persistent poverty, limited preventive resources, and a lack of accessible places and opportunities for PA and active play. However, rural communities also look different from one community to another and exhibit great diversity in employment, resources, geography, topography, age, ethnicity, and culture.

It is imperative to build evidence in these areas with an equity lens to move toward stronger translation, implementation, and dissemination, to help improve health and well-being for all children and families. The siloing of research in separate disciplines stifles the potential impact of collective expertise and vantages, so multidisciplinary research is needed to address the challenges preventing all children and youth from being active.

Read the full article about encouraging physical activity among children by M. Renée Umstattd Meyer, J. Aaron Hipp, Nisha Botchwey, Myron F. Floyd, Anna J. Kim, Keshia M. Pollack Porter, and James F. Sallis at Stanford Social Innovation Review.