Incentive Policies That Can Create Opportunities for Physical Activity

Key takeaway:

  • Almost half of children live in communities with policies for land use development incentives to promote active living, but there are disparities in these policies by rural/urban locale.


  • 45% of children live in areas with land use incentives for active living, with the most common incentives for development including open/green space (41%), park/recreation areas (28%), and sidewalks/trails (16%).
  • Children living in suburban/urban areas were more likely to live in areas with incentive policies promoting active living, particularly addressing open space and sidewalk/trails, than children in rural areas.
  • Children in suburban/urban areas were twice as likely to live in areas with density/development bonuses than children in rural areas (22% vs. 10%).
  • There were no significant patterns in policies by race/ethnicity or U.S. region.



  • This brief analyzed policies collected from 2011-2012 in 314 communities representing 676 jurisdictions from a nationally representative sample of public middle and high school enrollment areas. Policies were evaluated for incentives (financial, in-kind, expedited permitting, or density/development bonuses) to promote development of park/recreation areas, open space, and sidewalks/trails.


Thrun E, Chriqui JF, Slater SJ, Chaloupka FJ. (2016). Incentive Policies as Tools to Encourage Physical Activity. [Research Brief.] Chicago, IL: Bridging the Gap Program, Health Policy Center, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago.

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