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Fitness activity = Economic development.


The Public Health Institute captured the case for fitness = economic development in this poster. Click to enlarge it. Used with permission.

In 2013, after Summersville started featuring fitness and outdoor adventure in its advertising, traffic on the city’s Web site went up 40 percent, according to Summersville Convention and Economic Development director Marianne Taylor.


Every year, Parkersburg closes its streets and turns them into a big park with healthy activities, bringing hundreds of people downtown to patronize the businesses. It was such a success, they now do it once a month, holding a party at a different business every month,giving them a financial boost. (Photo courtesy The OPAM)

Businesses and families want to locate in communities that value fitness, research shows. West Virginia now has the lowest “wellbeing” measure of any state on Gallup’s annual index. It doesn’t have to stay that waay

Colorado cites its healthy workforce and fitness offerings, in attempts to convince businesses from other places to relocate, as this National Public Radio story shows.  The title of the piece is “Businesses seek out areas with culture of health.”

The resources on this page can help you convince others that it is in your community’s economic development interest to make it easier for residents to adopt healthier lifestyles.

Scroll down. Scan through the resources and research.  Get a sense of possibilities. We don’t have to stay on the bottom.


Use these great resources!


Mountain biking now brings thousands of people and more thousands of dollars to West Virginia. Here, mountain bikers line up for the start of the Mountwood race, one of more than 25 major West Virginia races.

Mountain biking now brings thousands of people and more thousands of dollars to West Virginia. Here, mountain bikers line up for the start of the Mountwood race, one of more than 25 major West Virginia races. (Photo courtesy The OPAM)

  • Healthy Communities/Healthy Future. Ideas for ways to create a healthy environment with safe places to walk, bike and play. A project of the National League of Cities.
  • Smart Growth Online: “Supporting the development of vibrant, healthy communities.”  This site is packed nationwide examples of ways communities can grow in a healthy way.  Lots of funding ideas too.
  • The Center for Active Design   This organization offers several books full of attractive designs for public places that encourage physical activity. See “resources.” The center aims to “reduce obesity and chronic diseases by promoting physical activity and healthy eating through the design of buildings, streets, and neighborhoods.”
  • The Local Government Commission / healthy communities page.  A very helpful Web site for local government.
  •  Trail Towns is a non-profit set up to maximize the economic potential of trail-based tourism. They have some impressive economic impact studies on the trails in Pennsylvania and Maryland.  West Virginia is just getting started.


    West Virginia now has more miles of rail-trail per person than any other state. “The trails around Summersville are so popular, we’ve made a map to hand out to people,” said Marianne Taylor, Summersville Convention and Visitors Bureau director.

  • The National League of Cities: Useful Webinars and examples from other cities.
  • “The Economic Benefits of Bicycle Infrastructure Investments,” by Advocacy Advance. A good summary and discussion by the AARP can be found, with a link to the actual report, at
  • Advocacy Advance research and resources are at
  • The 2016 Benchmarking report from the Alliance for Biking and Walking includes: bicycling and walking levels and demographics; bicycle and pedestrian safety; funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects; written policies on bicycling and walking; bicycle infrastructure; bike-transit integration; bicycling and walking education and
    encouragement activities; public health indicators; and the economic impact of bicycling and walking.
  • Bike to Work: Benefits to employees are matched by benefits to businesses. Employers can get tax breaks for encouraging biking to work:
  • Advertise your events:  I Play Outside is an examples of bulletin boards. Or advertise through your county Parks and Rec site. Here’s a good example:
  • Eat Smart, Move More. North Carolina used to reward communities with small grants. That successful program that fell victim to budget cutbacks.  It was succeeded by the excellent Eat Smart, Move More NC program that offers great how-to tips, but no grants.
  • Fit communities attract business and young people: “The Rust Belt,” a well-produced video about Cleveland, provides many ideas about ways biking, walking and hiking can help rejuvenate a city and attract young people.
  • Healthy local food = economic development: See “Healthy local food as an economic development tool” page.
  • See the Farm to School page.  West Virginia schools spend more than $80 million every year on school meals. If a tenth of that could come from West Virginia, that would be $8 million.
  • West Virginia’s Road Map for the Food Economy: WV Farm and Food Coalition.
  • And things like beekeeping … Remember that, throughout our history, many people patched a living together, making $$ here and $$ there. We need to keep in mind that sometimes, all people need is another source of income that lets them stay in the place they love.



  • Here’s some solid research to bolster your case:



“All the businesses along the streets closed for Park Day reported that they had had one of the year’s biggest sales days,” said Kim Coram, event organizer and Parkersburg City Council member. Click to enlarge.

  • The potential savings of fitness are enormous. In 2010, Duke paired its “cost of obesity” study with a study that estimates the potential savings of fitness. Major findings:
    • Unless changes are made, there are likely to be 32 million additional obese Americans 20 years from now, a 33 percent increase in obesity and 130 percent increase in severe obesity.
    • Keeping obesity rates level could save nearly $550 billion in medical expenditures over the next two decades. See  “Obesity and Severe Obesity Forecasts through 2030,” the Journal of Preventative Medicine, Finkelstein et al., June 2011.
  • Corporate wellness programs pay off:  “A review of 72 studies published in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed an average return on investment of $3.48 per $1 for corporate wellness programs when considering health care costs alone; $5.82 when examining absenteeism; and $4.30 when both outcomes are considered.”
  • More evidence of the high medical cost of obesity from a 2011 Gallup poll:
  • West Virginia study: “Couch potatoes cost millions.”


    Jefferson County’s annual Freedom’s Run nets about $15,000 each year, which the organizers donate to the schools to pay for fitness trails and other healthy lifestyle projects. Photo courtesy The Martinsburg Journal

  • Potential savings of fitness: “In the 10 cities with the highest obesity rates, the direct costs connected with obesity and obesity-related diseases are roughly $50 million per 100,000 residents. If these 10 cities cut their obesity rates down to the national average, the combined savings to their communities would be $500 million in health care costs each year.”  From the National League of Cities Healthy Communities/Healthy Future project
  • Blueprint Mississippi Health Care: An economic driver. For those who would like to see an example of a  state-level study: Here’s the 2012 Mississippi state study examining the economic impact of people’s health on the economy.
  • Pedestrians and bicyclists tend to spend more money. A study by Advocacy Advance showed that bicyclists and pedestrians spend more money per mile than people in vehicles, perhaps because they can stop more easily to shop.
  • The American College of Sports Medicine produces a yearly “American Fitness Index.: The 2017 report again named Minneapolis-St. Paul as the healthiest, fittest cities in the USA for the third year. “What Minneapolis has done brilliantly is put their resources where residents can use them effectively to maintain a high level of physical activity,” Walt Thompson, professor of exercise physiology at Georgia State University, told USA Today. “The city spends double the amount of money on parks per capita ($227 a person) as some other cities.”

    BIG PHOTO. Huntington Fitfest

    In the wake of Jamie Oliver, Huntington is turning into a fitness-conscious town: the PATH fitness trail through town, biking and running groups, Create Huntington, high-quality school food, Huntington’s Kitchen and a variety of Fitness events and festivals like Huntington FitFest, pictured here. Photo courtesy the Huntington Herald-Dispatch

  • Physical activity improves productivity. The Lancaster University Study: Multi-business Study of the  Effect of Low Impact Physical Activity on Employee Health and Wellbeing– 2011 has a wealth of information on the impact of physical activity on employee productivity.  See writeup below the picture.








Also see these Try This pages: Healthy food = economic development tool, create a food distribution system, Farm to School, Encourage road biking, Create a running/walking group



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