Location Helps “Sneak In” Healthy Habits

I have been looking at the healthy built environment a lot this week –the human made, physical characteristics of our surroundings – where we work, live, play and shop. It can make or break your how your day goes. If I have a grocery store close by with healthy options, I am more likely to buy an apple and a sandwich for my lunch, than if my only option is a fast food burger and fries. If I feel safe in my neighbourhood and have a pleasant tree-lined street with sidewalks, then I am more likely to put my sneakers on and go for a walk than if I live next to fast-moving traffic with only the road shoulder as a buffer between me and the cars.

The way we build our towns and cities makes a big difference to our health. It can support our healthy behaviours substantially – and more and more people are looking at the ways to create healthier neighbourhoods. Planners, politicians, teachers, students, and many health professionals are coming to an agreement on what makes for healthier places to live, work and play.

A recent edition of the Canadian Journal of Public Health, focused in on the Canadian evidence for healthier built environments. The evidence points to the impact healthy community design can have on child obesity rates, physical activity, and healthy eating.

So if we build it better and healthier they will come, but what do we do in the interim? Next week is ParticipACTION’s “Sneak it in Week” from Apr 8-12, which focuses on the individual choices we can make to make the healthy choice easier. We can wear sneakers to work, to support walk breaks during the work day, or active commuting. Our own internal ‘built environment’ if you will! And it’s true, if you wore stilettos to work would you say ‘yes’ to a walking meeting? I wouldn’t. So bring out your comfy shoes next week and sneak in a 10 minute walk here and there. Get your heart rate up and blood pumping.

A recent study shows that for maintaining healthy weights, active commuting that incorporates physical activity into our routines is more effective than going to the gym. Because while you might skip the gym, you have to get home!

Samantha Hartley-Folz
April 4, 2013

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