Did you know that today is National Walk to Work Day? Sponsored by Prevention Magazine, itís an effort to get us moving by incorporating more movement into our days. A worthy goal. And the organizers suggest that the millions of us who work too far from home to walk there set aside some time during the day Ė before or after work, or at lunchtime – to walk.
The announcement for this event appeared on my internet homepage yesterday, right below the news article stating that a higher percentage of Americans are commuting 90 minutes or more to work Ė and thatís one way – than 2 years ago.
Three hours a day commuting. Eight hours at work. Eight hours of sleep, we hope, and that means that there are five free hours a day for these commuters to take care of their households, families, run errands, cook and clean, fulfill social obligations, etc. Where can these folks fit in the recommended 60 minutes a day in aerobic exercise?
Weight management is primarily a personal responsibility, but there is increasing recognition that our society does not readily support a suitable lifestyle Ė like these distance commuters. However, Iím happy to report that last August, the National Institutes of Health issued a Request for Application entitled Obesity and the Built Environment (RFA number RFA-ES-04-003).
It appears to be a first step to making our environments more conducive to a healthy lifestyle. The RFA states that it will support projects that look at the impact of the Built Environment on overweight and obesity. In other words, research grants will be provided to examine how city and regional planning, transportation, media, access to healthy foods, and availability of exercise-friendly areas [walking paths, playgrounds, etc.] affect nutrition and physical activity.
Whatís a Built Environment? Good question. According to the NIH, itís all the buildings, spaces and products that are created or occupied by people. So that includes all these office parks on main highways that have no sidewalks for taking a safe walk at lunchtime. And playgrounds that are kept locked so that vagrants canít set up housekeeping in them. Letís not forget business areas that are sprawled out all over the landscape so that a person drives 15-20 miles on a Saturday morning to complete the weekly errands.
I, for one, applaud this effort, even though there probably wonít be any real results from it for several years. In the meantime, all of us who have over-scheduled lives, whether we spend more than 90 minutes a day commuting or take care of three active pre-schoolers, will have to figure out some way to exercise during our precious unscheduled hours.
So, for today, if youíve read this rant all the way through, take a walk. Breathe some fresh air and enjoy the beginnings of spring. Carry some hope in your heart.