Active Design

Physical activity and unhealthy diet rank among the leading risk factors of premature death in the United States. Active Design tackles this trend through a series of architectural and urban design strategies that encourage stair climbing, walking, bicycling, transit use, active recreation and healthy eating.


Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design (2010) (PDF)
This publication offers a collection of evidence-based, cost-effective strategies to help architects, urban planners and public health professionals design healthier environments. The guidelines include urban design strategies for creating neighborhoods, streets, and outdoor spaces that encourage walking, bicycling, and active transportation and recreation. The document also features building design strategies for the placement and design of stairs, elevators and indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as a discussion of the synergies between active design, sustainability and universal design.

Supplemental Active Design Publications

Playbook for Early Childcare Settings (2017) (PDF)
Offers ideas and resources that early child care and education providers cans use to increase physically active play and learning.

Toolkit for School (2015) (PDF)
Details how Active Design can improve student health and academic performance through case studies and a step-by-step implementation guide.

Guide for Community Groups (2013) (PDF)
Describes how you can make your community a place where people can be physically active, have access to healthy foods and beverages and be socially engaged.

Promoting Safety (2013) (PDF)
Highlights strategies for reducing the risk of injury, while also promoting active living through walking, bicycling and increased access to public transportation.

Affordable Designs for Affordable Housing (2013) (PDF)
Focuses on low-cost ways to implement active design in affordable housing developments. Drawing on case studies from thee major U.S. cities, this supplement provides concrete examples of how simple design changes can help encourage active living among residents of all ages.

Shaping the Sidewalk Experience (2013) (PDF)
Presents a framework for creating safe, attractive sidewalks that promote active living, along with a variety of resources that can help inform sidewalk design.

FitCity Conference

FitCity is an annual conference that brings together leading professionals from the fields of architecture, public health, urban planning, academia and community development to promote health through the design of the built environment.

Learn more about FitCity.

Stair Prompt Poster

Walking up the stairs just two minutes each day can help prevent yearly weight gain. To encourage stair climbing, the City offers free “Burn Calories, Not Electricity” signs that you can place near elevators, escalators and stairs. Posting such signs has been shown to significantly increase stair use.

For more information, email

More Information