Putting a Positive ‘Spin’ on Inactivity Rates

When I was going to university, I used to ride my bike and walk everywhere. The decision to do so was mostly economical and partly motivated by health and convenience.  In other words, I was broke most of my years at school but I gave frugality a positive ‘spin’ with the explanation that I was squeezing in a little fitness while getting around.

It was an easy choice in many ways because I lived in Victoria – where the weather and terrain are easy for a bike rider.  Over the years, the city has embraced cycling by building great facilities – with separated paths like the Galloping Goose and on-street bike lanes.  Victoria has also grown a great bike culture – there have been many years of cycling events and education and now, supported by the infrastructure – people there just do it.  Not surprisingly, Victoria has the highest rates of cycling and walking in Canada.

So, when I was looking at the physical activity statistics from our “On the Path to Better Health” report I was not terribly surprised to see Southern Vancouver Island (and the rest of the Island as well) with some of the higher rates of activity in the province.  They’ve got the weather on their side but over the years the infrastructure and education has built a supportive environment.

What I was surprised to see was that in the Northeast of the province, they went from having the absolute lowest activity rates in BC and now, ten years later are above the provincial average.  I had a chance to talk to a reporter at the Northeast News and I flipped the question over to her: what do you think is going on to explain this shift?

She said that there has been a real push to build a connected network of trails and they now have over 100 km of walking paths.  They have also invested in some great indoor facilities recognizing that people need to be spaces to be active during the winter.

Is it a coincidence?  I think not!

The research on the impact of our environment to shape our movements is clear.  People living in complete, connected communities are 2.5 times more likely to use active forms of getting around (on foot, by bike) and to get the daily recommended levels of physical activity.  That’s why BCAHL has recommended expediting the expansion of trails and bikeways (active transportation facilities) in communities with low levels of physical activity and where the infrastructure is at capacity.

If we can learn from the experience of Victoria and Fort St John and build more places for people to get active while getting around –then maybe the positive ‘spin’ will be the turning of bike tires!

Rita Koutsodimos
Manager Advocacy and Communications
March 2014

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