Thank goodness for coffee and my genuine interest in this topic because last night was super late for me and this morning was super early. But, I made it to the conference at Hunter College and enjoyed every minute of it. We were discussing the ever pressing issue of obesity and ways to work physical activity into our architecture and city planning. Sweet, right!? I took special interest in Sarah Wolf, a panelist with the Active Design Tool Kit for School.
Their approach includes changes in public policy, similar to the ones passed in the 1920’s mandating windows and bathrooms in apartment buildings. Did you know that it was actually a thing to use the bathroom down the block? I would die a slow and crappy death. Seriously, lots of people died of illnesses because of these factors. The introduction of the two policies alone decreased mortality rates in NYC by 27 percent! While those days are behind us, we are facing a different threat to public health and possibly more devastating—obesity. Fortunately, we are on the cusp of some new and exciting policy changes that could impact obesity rates over time.
There are policies on the table that would raise the juice consumption age from 8 months to 2 years old. There’s another that limits the amount of sedentary activities in childcare facilities. There are policy discussions over whether or not open door lock magnets should be placed on stairwell doors. How would well-lit and easily located stair wells, cleaner sidewalks, slow zones, pedestrian charging areas, bike shares and storage impact the physical activity of a New Yorker? I can think of plenty of ways! Take the congestion on the sidewalks. There are already a-gazillion people on the streets of New York. We don’t need to dodge poop, and trash in addition to all the people! What about biking? When I bike, I go all the way to Central Park to rent one for the day. If I had storage in my building, I could get my own bike and have a place to keep it. On average, we gain 1 pound a year as we age. Just 15 minutes of daily cycling can burn an average of 10 lbs per year! Each hour per day spent in a car increases our chances of obesity by 6 percent. Did your jaw drop? Mine did too.
These stats are the reason why I choose the steps over the elevator. Sometimes it’s better to walk somewhere than to drive. These small activities add up. Their absences add up as well.
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