Written by guest blogger: Bruce Krentz in Thompson, Manitoba

Active Transportation: getting started and sticking to it

Active Transportation is a fancy way to say getting there without a vehicle. Walking, biking, skateboarding, rollerblading, canoeing and snowshoeing are ways to get where you are going by burning calories and not fossil fuel.

When was the last time you had the chance to do something that was good for you, good for the environment, saves money and most importantly is just plain fun? For a lot of us leaving the car at home when we head to work, school or to do errands is like the weatherman actually getting it right, it is more the exception than the rule. It is my experience that if I choose to bike to work, I pretty much always enjoy the ride and the experience. The same seems true for my office mates and friends.

So, how about this fun fact; the risk of obesity goes up 6% for every hour spent in a car each day, while the risk of obesity goes down by almost 5% for every kilometre walked each day. With one change you can make an 11% difference. If your banker offered you that you would change accounts instantly. By virtue of the fact we see more tires than runners on the road, it seems we don’t trust the health experts like we do our financial experts. Regular exercise also helps maintain and increase muscle strength, improves balance, overall co-ordination, reaction time and flexibility.

Beyond the benefits to your body, you are also more in touch with nature, more apt to meet and get to know the people around you and are generally more relaxed. Overall being active gives us a leg up in terms of our overall mental wellbeing. Like a three day snowstorm I could pile on more facts about saving money, reducing pollution, and traffic safety but you get the point.

The why is pretty clear, but things get trickier when we start to talk about how, which leads me to another fun fact. “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer – “One bite at a time.” Plan to make active transportation a part of your life for a long time but start by focusing on today and tomorrow. Challenge yourself to make it through a week and then a month and then a year. Before you know it, you will walk right past the car sitting in the driveway and not even give it a thought as you head to soccer with your kids.

By building activity in to our day and making it a part of our regular routine our chances of success rise like the price of gas before a long weekend. If we only brushed our teeth on sunny days when we had 8 hours of sleep, all of our dentists from the Twin Leaf Dentistry would all be retiring to the south of France. Instead we do it each and every day and the good tooth doctor makes a living on check-ups and not root canals.

“Now” is always the time to start getting more active but I think summer is “the best now”. Make Active Transportation part of your routine now so that when the leaves turn all you have to do is find another layer of clothes. As you roll on through the seasons, by the time the mercury is cowering at the bottom of the thermometer, you will be in a groove. I am pretty sure you will be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to stay warm even on the coldest days when you are burning fat not fossil fuel.

150 minutes of physical activity is what “the experts” recommend every week. Booking off 2 ½ hours looks daunting but if you find 30 minutes a day on the way to and from work, walking your kids to school or when you go to visit friends; you will be miles ahead of most Canadians.

This is “The Best Now”, so take the first bite. Get in to a lifelong routine that will make you physically and mentally healthier. You will save money, do a good turn for the environment and make your community stronger. Walking, wheeling and paddling are ways to get started and I am sure you have others. Regardless of what you choose, find a way to make it a part of your regular routine – someday you will look back and think “what happened to that elephant?”

Bruce Krentz has a Bachelor’s degree in Recreational Science and is a Regional Health Promotion Coordinator for the Northern Health Region in Thompson.