HOW TO: Active Living!

Good morning, beautifuls! 🙂 I hope you’ve been having a truly extraordinary and fabulous new year 2014! How are those resolutions and goals coming? I know for me, it’s been such an amazing start! I’m really focusing on my goals every day, and even though every day might not be PERFECT (but really, nothing is!), I am still proud of my efforts!

 “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

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Today is the first time I have a guest blogger here on Fit Green and Gorgeous!!! My brother, David, is truly awesome. He started working out over a year ago, and with the help of some great DVD programs, dedication, perseverance and maybe a little motivation from me 😉 😉 , he lost a total of 30 pounds and is now bulking and building crazy muscle with BodyBeast, lifting weights, eating CLEAN and mainly vegetarian, and has FOUND his passion!!! This is what life is all about, isn’t it? Learning, exploring, trying, never giving up, expanding your horizons, working on your goals, pursuing your dreams and LIVING the life you LOVE. I’m so proud of him and so blessed to have him as my brother. I learn from him every day. Having someone close to you who GETS YOU, who loves the same things you do, who knows the importance of sweating once a day and who doesn’t get bored of your constant rambling about healthy active living is such a blessing. I wish this for you all, too! I know you’ll learn a lot from what he has to say, I always do! Without further ado, let’s get to reading what he has to say about the importance of active living, the role your neighbourhood plays in your health and how to incorporate MORE activity into your every day life! 😀

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ACTION!

“When we think about being healthy and in good shape, we usually believe that we possess ultimate control and this is very true to a large extent. Things like diet and exercise, either at a gym or at home, will play a major role in our wellbeing. However, circumstances beyond our direct control can also affect our health and wellbeing to various degrees. For example, living next to a polluting industrial park or a busy highway will definitely impact our health through noise and air pollution, and numerous lines of research show that individuals living in these neighbourhoods are negatively affected. But there are also more subtle ways that the environment and modern living work against our efforts to be healthy.

Our modern society tries to expunge any physical labour that was pervasive up until the end of the second World War. Think of our grandparents and the about of physical labour they expended not only at work, but around the home as well. Nowadays, most people unfortunately spend the greater part of their day seated; first, behind the wheel of a car, then at a desk in front of a computer, a quick bite for lunch, back to the computer and then in the car on the way home. In the evening, most of us eat and then sit and watch TV. Not much physical activity in a typical day. Nevertheless, we can and must incorporate physical activity in everyday life, and this may one way for people that do not exercise to approach the minimum physical activity requirement of 150 minutes a week for an adult.

How does this relate to what I was saying earlier about neighbourhoods and the environment? It turns out that living in neighbourhoods that are walkable, meaning they have good sidewalk infrastructure with safe streets and parks, are correlated with residents have lowing body mass indices (BMIs). This is intuitive because if we can walk to stores and other amenities, we can accumulate some level of physical activity. But unfortunately, what a lot of people living in central neighbourhoods of older cities take for granted, like simple things like sidewalks and mixed-uses (an area that is not strictly residential, but has businesses and commercial uses as well) are absent in suburbs and newer developments. Paradoxically, a recent study has found that people residing in suburbs using mass transit actually achieve more minutes of walking compared to residents of neighbourhoods in the city well served by public transportation. Why? It seems that the lower density of transit stops in the suburbs requires more walking to reach a stop compared to stops within the city. However, it is currently unknown whether this increased walking to commute to work or school outweighs the fact that cars are used to accomplish most errands in the suburbs. Which brings me to the point of this post: the environment we live in can shape, for better or worse, our health. So I have compiled some tips for getting the most incidental physical activity over the course of a day.

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  1. Walk or bike to work or school when possible: This may seem like a no-brainer, but in fact, fewer and fewer children walk or bike school that ever before, for numerous reasons that I won’t get into here. Personal side note: this is how I began getting in shape. I used to live quite close to work, but took the bus even though a lot of times it was stuck in ridiculous traffic. I made a new year’s resolution that I would walk everyday. And I did. It took me about half an hour one way, and I felt great, lost weight and saved money by not buying a transit pass. So when this is a feasible option, like when the weather is not brutal and the path is safe (not crossing over highways), then walking or biking is a great way to incorporate physical activity. Check Google Maps for walking and biking routes. Also, try to walk/bike on quiet side streets. I prefer walking on streets without a lot of vehicular traffic because there aren’t as many fumes from the cars, but sometimes, busier streets are safer (like at night, or less ice/snow on the sidewalks). Again, a judgement call. However, this may not also be feasible because of distance, which is now my case, or the sidewalk or biking infrastructure may not be present. Seemingly little things like having a good sidewalks clearly affects our choices for active transportation (walking, biking, or mass transit). So if your community lacks proper infrastructure, contact your representative at the municipal government and be heard. Here are some websites with details: http://americawalks.org https://aom3.americaonthemove.orgScreen Shot 2014-01-16 at 10.52.58 AM
  2. Take the stairs when possible: Since I do not walk to work anymore, I try to walk as much as possible during my commute. A simple way is to take the stairs up and down at the subway and at work. Unfortunately, a lot of buildings (not talking about skyscrapers here) put their stairs in the back in scary places and in turn discourage walking. See what I mean about the little things affecting our health? If designers and architects put stairs in an attractive manner and were clear accessible (http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/stair-week-saucier-perrotte-architectes-john-abbot-college.html), then walking up the stairs would contribute to our health. Check out this website for more: http://centerforactivedesign.org/stairpromptScreen Shot 2014-01-16 at 10.53.36 AM
  3. Take walks during breaks or have walking meetings: If you can, take a brisk walk during lunch break. Again, if you work at large building surrounded by a parking lot covered with asphalt, there isn’t really an incentive to walk. Also walking meetings may be feasible. Insurance company Kaiser Permanente has instituted walking meetings and check here for more: http://share.kaiserpermanente.org/article/walking-the-talk-try-a-walking-meeting/ http://www.everybodywalk.org/collaborative/1130-hosting-walking-meetings.html
  4. Exit a stop earlier: On my return trip from work, when I have time, I usually get off a bus stop or two earlier. This forces me to walk and also unwind from work/commuter mode and gets in ~10 min of brisk walking.Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 10.54.31 AM
  5. Take a walk in the evening, walk to run errands and in general, leave the car at home. Or just walk to discover you neighbourhood, or walk to a park. This brings me back to my overarching point: Factors seemingly beyond our control can impact our health. Sure, we cannot directly control how designers, architects, planners and politicians design buildings and communities, but we can make our voices heard by going to town and community board meetings. Fortunately, many cities are now realizing that all our car-centric development is hurting not only our cities in economic terms, but also harming citizens through pollution, accidents, but also reduced walking. Walking has so many benefits, both at the individual and societal level, and virtually no detriments. So get involved and walk and bike or use public transit as much as possible! Get involved to pressure elected officials to pay more attention to the details because these details (safe streets, good biking infrastructure, etc.) can play an important part keeping people healthy and out of hospitals.

I hope this post was helpful and clear. Here is a link that compares neighbourhoods in terms of walkability and amenities http://www.walkscore.com. Although it seems that walkable neighbourhoods located in city centers are more expensive in terms of rent, in fact, living further away from the center (and work, if you work in the central business district) is more expensive because of the money spent on your car and car-related expenses.

Please let me know about your neighbourhood, if it supports your healthy lifestyles and things you do to incorporate physical activity in everyday life!

Here’s a very useful website with a lot of info and data about active living: http://activelivingresearch.org”

I’d also LOVE to hear what you have to say! Comment here!!! And, as always, don’t be shy to add me on Facebook, on Twitter and on Instagram, and email me at verbichlaura@gmail.com! I’d love to hear from you!

Peace, love and long walks,
xx Laura

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