Easy fitness: No willpower required

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(CNN) — Living a healthy, active lifestyle today is hard. It requires planning. Willpower. Perseverance.

But in the future, fitness might not be so difficult. Experts are working to change our environment so that the healthy choice is the easy choice — or not a choice at all.

“A healthy city … makes it easy for people to get fresh air, exercise and meet people,” says Jeff Risom, a partner at Gehl Architects, which is leading the way in designing public spaces that naturally increase wellness.

Imagine: Instead of jumping on the treadmill for a half hour at 6 a.m., then sitting all day at work, you bike to and from the office and skip the gym altogether. Instead of watching The Food Network while reheating a frozen pizza, you walk with your partner to eat with friends at the little farm-to-table café near your condo.

“You can change the built environment to improve health,” says David Burney, chairman of the board for the Center for Active Design. “It’s just finding ways to reverse this culture where we always drive everywhere, always take the escalator … and make people more active in their everyday lives.”

The Center for Active Design focuses on four areas: transportation, active buildings, recreation and food access.

This means creating safe bike lanes, crosswalks and sidewalks. It means placing stairs more prominently than elevators. It means increasing access to public transportation and to parks. It means offering tax incentives for supermarkets to open in food deserts so families can easily buy fresh produce. These changes are being implemented across the country in hotels, schools — even affordable housing units.

And changing our environment is about more than just fighting obesity. Wellness real estate company Delos recently debuted its first residential building, which features supportive flooring to protect your back, vitamin C-infused showers, circadian rhythm lighting to help you sleep, and germ-prevention kitchen countertops.

While these New York lofts sell for millions of dollars, the concepts could eventually be used in houses and apartment complexes around the country. Delos has developed a WELL Building Standard, along the lines of the LEED certification for environmentally green buildings, so other companies can follow suit.

By Jacque Wilson, CNN

Editor’s note: With our interactive project “Healing the Future,” CNN is featuring 10 ideas and inventions that are revolutionizing health care — from the operating table to the kitchen table. Check them all out at CNN.com/healingthefuture.

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