| Rev. Carolyn Lesmeister |
Regular “exercise” is part of the daily lives of many octogenarians, but for those in Blue Zone communities, that doesn’t mean what you might think.
Rather than spending extra hours at the gym or walking for the sake of accumulating miles, such people live in environments conducive to making regular movement a natural part of their everyday lives. They don’t have to go out of their way to get exercise because it is structured into what they already do.
Often, this is as simple as doing regular tasks by hand, the old-fashioned way, without the assistance of modern technology and devices. Foregoing a riding lawnmower in favor of a push-mower – for example – burns more calories and strengthens muscles while completing a task that needs to be done anyhow.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate “natural movement” into your life is to commute from place to place without driving. That could mean walking to places nearby, biking to destinations farther away, or taking transit for longer trips (because the bus probably doesn’t stop right in front of your house, so you’d have to walk at least a few blocks to catch it).
However, even if you have the physical capacity to walk or bike a reasonable distance, you may not be able to do so safely and with ease. It’s hard to walk the kids to school if the sidewalks don’t go all the way there. Biking on narrow, high-traffic streets with speeding cars and distracted drivers might takes years off of your life instead of lengthening it. If it takes three hours to get across town on the bus, well, that’s probably not a choice you’ll make if you don’t have to.
So, the infrastructure of our environments can play a significant role in either encouraging or discouraging our efforts to incorporate “natural movement” into our daily lives. Driving everywhere tempts us with its convenience and illusion of safety, while very real structural challenges combine with our own personal barriers to make walking, biking, or taking the bus often seem unrealistic if not foolish.
This week in WAYfinding, we’ll investigate how realistic these alternative modes of transportation currently are for our own neighborhoods, learn about how “the ultimate walkable city” made the changes to earn its nickname, and explore possibilities for making the greater Indianapolis area easier to navigate via “natural movement.” If possible, add your voice; we'd love to have you pop in and check out a group. Simply let us know you're coming. If you cannot, the above alluded to article, "How Stockholm Became the Ultimate Walkable City," and its accompanying video, are great places to start.