It is not surprising that having healthy habits, like walking every day, is one way to fight the holiday bulge. But did you know that it can also keep a little extra padding in your pocketbook? As colder weather sets in many of us look forward to a fun and festive holiday season. This busy time of year and its blustery winter weather can also mean that some of our summertime activities and active transportation habits become a distant memory. Add to that the surplus of heart-warming treats and holiday beverages, and it’s easy to see why so many of us set resolutions to lose weight and exercise more when January 1st rolls around.
Active transportation is known as a solid way to get active, which can save on health care costs. Active transportation typically means walking or biking to get from place to place, but can also include using public transportation, where the active component is getting to and from stations or stops. An example of this comes from Toronto, Canada. Estimates from proposed improvements to the region’s transportation system would increase transit use by 7.8 percent. When these people switch from cars to transit, it’s projected to prevent 338 deaths, 1,000 cases of diabetes, and $1.67 billion USD ($2.2 billion CA) in annual health savings. It’s noteworthy that not all of these savings are from increased physical activity, as factors such as emissions reductions and reduced traffic fatalities were included in the estimates, but who’s going to scoff at those added benefits?
Of course, transitioning to walking places or taking public transit when you’re not doing so already isn’t easy. This is likely because of 60-plus years of development across the American landscape that prioritized sprawling, disconnected suburbs. Add to that an American culture with a deep fondness for car ownership and personal travel, and it takes planning and motivation to make active transportation a part of your daily routine. However, these changes are comfortable when a city builds activity-supportive environments.
For over 10 years, the American Fitness Index has monitored transportation systems and activity-supportive environments as key influencers of community fitness. This report evaluates the healthiness of cities – including several measures of active transportation. The percent of a city’s inhabitants who walk, bike or use public transportation to get to work, and the city’s average Walk Score – which measures how walking-friendly an area is for daily errands – are critical components of the overall Fitness Index rankings.
The Fitness Index aims to help public officials, concerned citizens, local community groups and health organizations assess the essential aspects of their city’s overall health and quality of life. While you plan to dig out the winter wardrobe, take some time to motivate yourself to walk, bike or even take public transit on your next outing, not only to fight that holiday bulge, but maybe save a little extra money for the holiday gift fund.
Author: Jane C. Hurley