A Race to Get Coloradans Active

It’s National Public Health Week, a time to reflect on the health of our state and continue the conversation about how to further improve the health of our residents.

A new analysis from the 2015 Colorado Health Report Card shows that, on the surface, Colorado is a leader in physical activity. But a closer look at the data reveals that there is more to the story.

We have much room for improvement when it comes to physical activity, especially among our children and teens. Twenty-three states post better physical activity rates for kids and 12 have better rates for teens, according to data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

More screen time is one reason for these low rates of physical activity. More than half of high schoolers spend three or more hours each day behind a screen – a computer, TV, iPad or phone. And while the rate is lower for teen girls, they also are less likely than their male peers to be active. Girls trail boys by 18 percentage points when it comes to being physically active for at least an hour five or more days of the week.

Still, Colorado is moving in the right direction. The percentage of school-age children between the ages of six and 17 engaging in regular exercise has increased since 2003. And adults and seniors actually lead the nation in physical activity, with adults at No. 1, with 83 percent reporting physical activity, and seniors at No. 2, with 76 percent getting some exercise.

Many communities ­- particularly those in low-income and rural areas - face challenges due to inadequate infrastructure for exercise, such as parks and sidewalks. 

The public health community and leaders across Colorado are exploring ways to get all of the state’s residents active. Recent investments in programs like Safe Routes to School look to improve opportunities for active transit, particularly walking or riding to school or work. They focus on making physical activity convenient and fun – an important step in getting Coloradans active.

The Colorado Health Foundation released the 2015 Colorado Health Report Card, its ninth annual, in early February. It tracks detailed information about 38 health indicators, providing a benchmark for measuring progress on pressing health issues. This information is from the first Data Spotlight, titled “Extra Credit: Get Active/Public Health Working to Increase Physical Activity, and released as part of the project.

The Colorado Health Institute is proud to team with the Colorado Health Foundation on this project.

Natalie Triedman is a policy analyst at CHI.