SR Physical Activity: All people have the opportunity and supportive environment for physical activity and 2 more...less... Download Data Go Back

All ages have opportunity to be physically active

Everyone has access to safe and accessible transportation and recreation.

Adults aged 20+ reporting no leisure-time physical activity (3 yr) - Buncombe


Data Description & Source

Description: Age-adjusted percent of adults age 20 yrs + who self-reported to be physically inactive. Respondents were considered to be physically inactive if they answered "no" to the question, "During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?"

About the data estimate: Three years of data were used to improve the precision of the year-specific county-level estimates. For example, 2003, 2004, and 2005 were used for the 2004 estimate and 2004, 2005, and 2006 were used for the 2005 estimate. Estimates were restricted to adults 20 years of age or older to be consistent with population estimates from the US Census Bureau.

This data is estimated using data from CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and data from the US Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program. BRFSS is an ongoing, state-based telephone survey of the adult population. The survey provides state-specific information on behavioral risk factors and preventive health practices.

Find more information about this data and method used to calculate the county-level estimate at

Source: County level data: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, State and County Indicators, Leisure-time Physical Inactivity Prevalence County Estimates,

CDC Diabetes Interactive Atlas,

NOTE: As of 6/20/16, the most up-to-date county data estimate is 2013; whereas the most up-to-date state data estimate is 2014.

Story Behind the Curve

Making active transportation a realistic, affordable and convenient option for all transportation users would help reduce health impacts and also promote physical activity, recreation and environmental preservation. Well connected streets with safe pedestrian and bicyclist paths and infrastructure can promote a healthy and active lifestyle for everyone.

Community partners identified that both city and county governments recognize the connection between health and policies and infrastructure to promote active transportation. Health is addressed in transportation and greenway master plans, and the public health department is a partner in these efforts. These policies and infrastructures have a larger impact in low resource neighborhoods; however, there is minimal engagement with community members from these neighborhoods.

Increasing evidence points to the benefits of regular physical activity for a wide range of health conditions. It is recommended that most adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week. WNC Healthy Impact's most recent telephone survey found that 56% of Buncombe adults meet those recommendations (compared to 62% in 2012 WNC Healthy Impact survey). Furthermore, according to the County Health Rankings, 21% (2012 - 3 yr average) of Buncombe County adults report getting no physical activity.

Barriers to physical activity include many social and cultural factors such as lack of time, motivation and support. Access to safe places to exercise is also a important barrier. In general, access alone does not seem to be a significant barrier in our community. The national County Health Rankings looked at and the distance residents needed to travel to parks, community centers or to facilities such as the YWCA or YMCA and estimated that 90% of residents have access to places to exercise. Where parks and facilities do exist, barriers include poor quality (size, attractiveness or condition) as well as concerns about crime, traffic and safety.

When we look at the rise of obesity over the past several decades in the context of what has changed in our communities, we see a significant decrease in walking or biking as a form of transportation with much more time spent in cars. Car-centric community design makes it challenging in many parts of our community to walk, to bicycle, or to use public transportation (which generally requires walking and biking to round out a trip) to get around. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that adults and children who live in communities where active transportation is realistic, affordable and convenient are more physically active. In fact, when active transportation is part of an everyday commute it may be as beneficially as structured exercise work out. A 2012 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the farther people commute by vehicle, the higher their blood pressure and body mass index. Also, the farther they commute, the less physical activity the individual participated in.[1] In Buncombe County, 20% of the population spends more than 30 minutes driving alone to work every day.

Making active transportation a realistic, affordable and convenient option for all transportation users would help reduce health impacts and also promote physical activity, recreation and environmental preservation. Well connected streets with safe pedestrian and bicyclist paths and infrastructure can promote a healthy and active lifestyle for everyone.

Consider the following alarming statistics:

  • Three-quarters of American adults will be overweight or obese by 2015 (1) , while childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years [2]
  • Physical inactivity can lead to chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoarthritis, cancer, stroke, and diabetes [3]
  • Obesity costs account for approximately nine percent of all health care spending in the U.S., and part of these costs are attributable to auto-oriented transportation that inadvertently limits opportunities for physical activity [4]
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), roughly 23 percent of U.S. children do not participate in at least 60 minutes of weekly physical activity and 44 percent do not attend physical education classes in an average school week [5]


What Works

There is a growing body of evidence that transportation policies and infrastructure that promotes walking, bicycling and the use of public transportation (active transportation) can increase physical activity as well as reduce obesity and related chronic disease. Making these modes of transportation safe, convenient, accessible and enjoyable to use all serve a role in increasing users which in turn increasing associated physical activity. [1-3]

APHA Supports:

  • Active transportation options that are accessible and affordable for all users
  • Transportation and land-use policies that provide opportunities for all people to be active and engaged in their communities
  • The Complete Streets approach, where streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users
  • The expansion of Safe Routes to School programs, which encourage children, including children with disabilities, to walk and bike to school safely
  • The development of healthy communities and incentives for transportation and transit projects that promote health

Click here for AT THE INTERSECTION of Active Transportation and Equity

Workgroup participants believe the following are working or will work (to do better) in our community:

  • Transit system improvements to make use easier
    • Maps at stops
    • Times at stops
    • Info on using bus system
  • Community campaigns to increase support and use or active transportation and should:
    • Use a grassroots approach
    • Increase awareness of transportation components of pending City of Asheville bond referendum
    • Address concerns gentrification
  • Convince county commissioners that 500k cyclical annual funding source needed
    • Will require public engagement to increase political will
  • Reinforce system of economic conditions to support existing zoning along corridors
  • Mixed zoning for West Asheville Haywood Corridor
Action Plan

Action Plan:

  • Now
    • Low cost, no cost: Develop strong messaging to generate increased support and need for action. Will quickly develop some simple messaging while developing a communication campaign. Focus on:
      • Benefits, return on investment,
      • Include compelling stories of users, infographics and "social math" elements
      • Consistent messaging that all partners can begin to use to support and enhance communications by adding health and equity componets
    • Identify champions in a considerate/flexible manner
    • Use the Open Streets event September 18th as a key tool in research and testing messages
    • Engage more diverse voices
  • 6-12 months
    • Research economic return of greenways
  • 1-3 years
    • Countywide bond issue
    • TDM/ART county staff person
  • Beyond
    • TBD

Challenge to action:

  • Meaningful engagement of those most impacted by transportation policy and infrastructure
  • Paying people to participate in focus groups
  • Managing expectations

For more information about work on this priority visit the Safe and Accessible Transportation Blogsite

Scorecard Result Program/Strategy Community-level Indicator Performance/Shared Measure Action Actual Value Target Value Tag S R CI S PM A @System.Threading.Thread.CurrentThread.CurrentUICulture.DateTimeFormat.ShortDatePattern.ToLower().Replace("yyyy", "yy") m/d/yyyy