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Whistle While You Walk

 By Andrea Zeelie, HC Link

The benefits of physical activity cannot be overstated. Physical activity is more than sweat-inducing high intensity exercises. Simply walking more offers reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer as well as improved mental health. An active lifestyle combats some of the worst habits for personal health, such as inactivity and a poor diet.

The recently published Road to Health advocates for use of “active transportation,” such as walking or cycling. But, as the report suggests, active transportation can be more challenging for those living in areas affected by urban sprawl or in neighbourhoods with low walkability. Barriers to active transport include usage patterns (such as trip distances), the built environment (such as pavement quality), education (such as understanding of physical health,) and weather (such as ice or snow). Walking may not be possible as a mode of transportation, but it is still an essential physical activity. A recent study by the American College of Sports Medicine reports that children and youth should take approximately 12,000 steps per day to sustain an optimal level of physical activity.

Ontario hosts several fantastic walking focused events which encourage individuals to actively explore their surrounding environment:

- Jane’s Walk celebrates the urban ideals of Canadian activist and writer Jane Jacobs. Jane’s Walk has grown into a global event, taking place on the first weekend of May each year. Community members lead walks in their local neighbourhoods, often around a specific theme. Jane’s Walk is an enjoyable and affordable way to learn more about your community or explore a new one – on foot!

- Doors Open Ontario gives the public access to both commonplace buildings and heritage sites that are not usually open to the public. Sites are open from 10am to 4pm, all weekend (exact dates vary by location), free of charge. Plan to walk to a few sites and make a day of it. This year’s Open Doors celebrates the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

- A number of private companies offer specialized tours, ranging from culinary adventures to mystery expeditions. But plenty of options exist for walkers interested in free tours year round:

  • Some towns and cities provide historical Heritage Walks.
  • Self-guided trails, such as Discovery Walks, encourage environmental exploration.
  • Art galleries and museums offer programming, such as the Royal Ontario Museum’s ROMwalk, which include guided excursions of notable architecture.
  • Ontario Walks is an initiative to encourage physical activity amongst Ontario residents.

To learn more about how physical activity promotes healthy communities, visit HC Link's resources.

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