August 12, 2011

Is a Walking Program What We Need?

Here's is just one example of hundreds of walking programs and campaigns.  This is a great poster, but I would think the addition of a few "normal" legs would motivate those who do not have the gams of a runner. I don't know about you, but now I feel kinda awkward putting on my own bike shorts and walking for my health if I know "muscle-legs" is out there with I alone in this?????
There's a new program in British Columbia that is focused on getting people out and walking. The Healthy Families BC Walking Program has been launched complete with a website and tips on "getting out and getting active".  This is great news for those intimidated by exercise or feel you have to run to get any benefits (I've worked with both groups) but without considering the determinants of active living...will it succeed?

Pedometers have been known to
motivate the novice walker for while.
It has been my experience, with physical
activity motivation, that not only does
the novelty wear off, but many of these
cute little gizmos end up in the toilet.
Many programs have been launched over the last five years (mainly in support / response of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics) and yet we still find the statistics on active living low. The good news is BC has a slightly higher rate of "participaction" than the other provinces but could there be other explanations for this other than we have more people lacing up their shoes and going for a walk? Absolutely!

Where you live, where you work, and your city, town, or community in general influences your activity more than most may be aware of.  Those that live in neighbourhoods without sidewalks, for example, may not feel safe enough to go for a walk. Having to walk around parked cars and watch out for traffic may be enough stress (for me it certainly would be) to forgo the activity. Combine that with living in a high-crime neighbourhood and you have a recipe for sedentary living. In addition, if your live in a part of Canada with extreme weather (really hot in summer, snowing and cold in winter) the chances of you going out in the elements is low (especially if you are a novice exerciser).  Many of parts of BC boast all five seasons in moderate amounts. We can walk outside for most of the year, if not all of it. Of course this would have an influence on the physical activity statistics.

From the looks of things, there still appears to be a big gap between walking and other active living programs and safe environments. Having said that, I'm proud to say that my community is amazing at supporting active living. I really have to give it a huge pat on the back for all it has done in providing walking routes (there is a sea-wall walking route that continues to improve and increase in length) and trails (a committee was formed to create a network of trails in the local forests that are used by walkers, runners, and mountain bikers alike). Although I come from the active city of Victoria...I have to say, I haven't seen so many people out for a walk as I do where I live now. This is a city that appears to understand the link between safe environments and increased rates of physical activity.

Although I have witnessed
the die-hards exercising in
blizzards and heat waves,
I never see the newbie
braving those kind of
elements....would you?
I hope this new "Healthy Families" campaign does take this into account and address these challenges and I hope it does increase the rate of physical activity within our province...I really do. I just can't help but think this is another band-aid attempt at getting people active without addressing the big ticket items like poverty, safety, demographics, education, and the like. I think it is going to take a larger collaboration and more awareness of the interconnectedness of it all to see an actual increase in physical activity participation.

So that's all I have for today....not so humorous, I know, but very much aligned with Real Life Health.

K realize there are only four seasons. I have no idea what the fifth would be.

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