With its lakes, mountains and natural beauty, New Hampshire is often perceived as a haven for active outdoor living. In the state’s rural communities, however, many citizens struggle with health problems related to inactivity and sedentary lifestyles.
Plymouth State University has created the Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities to address this problem. The Center aims to enhance active living, health and wellness in New Hampshire’s North Country and Lakes Region through education, research and community partnerships.
Active living supports economic vitality while reducing the economic burden of hypokinetic diseases, which are associated with inactivity. Because many rural communities lack funding, personnel and facilities for active leisure and transportation, their residents may not have access to resources and programs more readily available in non-rural areas.
The Center’s activities support national, state and regional initiatives to improve health while building a professional workforce to support health promotion and prevention of hypokinetic diseases such as obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoporosis and adult-onset diabetes.
The Center serves as a regional resource linking Plymouth State University’s academic expertise with community needs. Its research encourages participation by rural community residents and seeks to translate findings into practices that engender positive health outcomes for these residents.
In its first year, the Center has conducted three major research studies, all seeking to answer questions about how rural populations can become more physically active. It has also collaborated with organizations in rural communities to develop outreach programs that educate citizens about active, healthy lifestyles.
By partnering with organizational and municipal stakeholders, the Center strives to enhance the quality of life in rural communities and engender a health environment in New Hampshire that is in line with the perception of the state as an active-living mecca.