Being Active: Great for the Environment or Our Environment: Great for being Active

There may be many secrets in life we may never figure out, but when it comes down to attaining good health and well-being it has never been a secret. It just comes down to regular physical activity- moving more and sitting less! For many, walking and cycling are two of the more popular activity choices that can easily be done. Or is it?

If it’s so easy, why aren’t more people doing it? The truth is, we live in a society where almost everybody owns a car. Many people will choose to drive even a few blocks to get to a destination, not ever considering that walking could be a healthier choice; or sometimes faster! We have developed a habit of being driven everywhere and for children; that’s all they know. Coupled with this reality, we have created an environment that supports this. Edmonton for instance, is a car friendly city. There are many resources spent on building, repairing, and developing roadways to support cars with very little going towards supportive infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. This potentially eliminates much of our opportunity to walk. Consequently, we struggle with finding time to be more physically active or to take a walk in the park. Although, we cannot place all the blame on lack of environmental supports the physical environment does impact an individual’s choice to walk and as a result be more physically active.

Back in June we held the first Park(ed) event where we played with the physical environment to see how it might impact people’s choice to be more physically active. Would people still show up if there was no space for cars? You be the judge.

Now, in order to celebrate International Car Free Day (Wednesday, Sept. 22) we invite you to join us for another experiment. This time the fun and activities will be held on 151st Street and Stony Plain Road from 3 – 7 pm. There will be plenty of fun and free activities like Yoga, Tai Chi, and the Big Bike Ride to keep you warm if the weather is a bit chilly. You can also wander around and get the H.U.M. on Edmonton’s first Holistic Urban Market, and give your body a shake with Zumba!  Join us and find out how you and your family can get eco-mobile.

Today in an effort to create healthier communities, there is a growing awareness and interest to engage in eco-mobility strategies to reduce our carbon footprint. Eco-mobility is being mobile but without the use of cars or motorcycles, in other words active transportation. It includes cycling, walking, inline skating, scooters, snowshoes, skis, buses, and light rail just to name a few. It also includes any of the above with an electric drive (hopefully powered by renewables). It is brilliant because when people participate in the concept of eco-mobility the benefits go beyond individual health to supporting environmental health as well.

The challenge, as individuals and as a society, will be to break old comfortable habits and conventions in order to create this new and positive shift in behavior. There is no time like the present to take some action. Below are some tips to consider:

Getting Started:
Start slowly – whether you’re taking the bus or getting on a bike take some time to learn the routes, find out how long it will take you, and plan some extra time if you need to change or shower when you arrive.

Take baby steps. Choose something that you enjoy – if you dislike skating, inline skating may not be your best choice. But don’t let that stop you from trying. If an activity is new to you, like biking, try borrowing a bike for a while before you go out and buy one.

Share your ride. Buddy up – instead of carpooling why not bike, walk or take the bus with someone else? It gives you someone to talk to and you can figure out the route together. You may also be able to find someone who has already caught onto the eco-mobility concept to show you the way.

Go halfway – can you bike to an LRT station or the bus stop and either park your bike or take it with you.

Most importantly – get started – even one day a week can get you on your way to becoming eco-mobile. If you need a destination, just come to the Park(ed) Car-Free Day. There will be plenty to do once you walk, ride your bike, or take transit to get there.

For more information on Park(ed) Car-Free Day and to view the schedule of free activities, visit www.edmonton.ca/activedmonton or www.stonyplainroadbrz.ca

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About the Author
Dot Laing
Dot Laing MA (Phys. Ed), AFLCA Trainer, Certified Exercise Physiologist, has many years of health, wellness, and fitness experience and feels very fortunate to be living her passion everyday at work and at play! Currently, Dot works for the City of Edmonton and coordinates the Active Edmonton program; a health promotion resource that helps Edmontonians to Get Up, Get Out, and Get Active! www.activedmonon.ca
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