Do our laws help or hinder physical activity in our neighbourhoods?



TYPE Prevention Centre News

Creating built environments that support both active and sustainable lifestyles is a growing global priority. Although laws are an important tool for regulating the built environment little is known about whether the laws in Australia promote or hinder physical activity.

This Prevention Centre project used scientific legal mapping to assess the laws that influence the built environment for walking and cycling in Australia.

The Australian Systems Approaches to Physical Activity (ASAPa) research team found most jurisdictions do not embed objectives in primary legislation that would promote physical activity and few address evidence-based standards that promote active living.

Increasing physical activity is a systems issue, requiring actions across multiple sectors. Our findings reveal opportunities where laws could be strengthened to promote more active environments in Australia with the following opportunities for improvement:

  • Amend primary legislation to enable a more integrated approach to creating environments for active living
  • Incorporate evidence-based standards into planning law
  • Strengthen obligations to monitor the performance of planning law
  • Realign existing legal standards to meet recommendations

The results of this research have now been published with Mapping and analysis of laws influencing built environments for walking and cycling in Australia in BMC Public Health and The built environment and population physical activity: Methods for mapping the relevant lawsin the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.