Rethinking Lifestyle

Make it a Resolution: Park the Car

  • Eric Rempel, Blog Coordinator
  • Advocate, South Eastman Transition Initiative

ParticipACTION suggests that a healthy adult should be getting over 150 minutes of exercise per week. 300 minutes per week would be even better. According to Statistics Canada, only 15% of Canadian adults meet the minimum. I expect that does not surprise any of us.

But another statistic that did surprise me. Over 50% of adults in Finland, Denmark and Sweden get this minimum amount of exercise. Still not enough, but substantially better than Canada. Why the difference? The bicycle, or more correctly the car. That is, many, many Scandinavians have rejected the car as their primary means of getting around. Many have substituted the bicycle, others are walking, and some use public transport.

In the Netherlands, 40% of journeys under 5 km. are made by bicycle. Also in the Netherlands, 34% of all journeys between two points by those over 75 is on foot.

As one who resolved over a decade ago not to use the car between two points in Steinbach, and one who is also over 75 years old, the above information makes sense – even if it is surprising. If we acknowledge that we are not getting enough exercise and we want to do something about it, we have basically two options. We can resolve to devote more time to exercise or we can alter our lifestyle. We can spend more time at the gym or treadmill, or we can substitute walking or cycling where formerly we would have taken the car.

Each of us will need to decide what’s more likely to work for us. In my case, I knew a decade ago, that I was not getting enough exercise and and that I really wanted to do something about this. As I considered my options, I realized that if my resolve was to spend more time in the gym or on the treadmill, I would likely break that resolve before long. On the other hand, it seemed to me, that if I resolved to park the car, I would be less likely to break that resolution. It seemed to me, as I considered my options, that if my resolution was to not use the car to get between two points in Steinbach, I would be less likely to break this resolution, than a resolution to go to the gym or use the treadmill. This has worked for me, and I can say I’m within that 15% that get more than 150 minutes per week.

Physical fitness is of course not the only reason to walk or bike. Walking or biking is so much more efficient by every measure of efficiency. Assume for the moment that you live and work in Steinbach. If you decide to park the car you may need to allow an extra 30 minutes to get to work and to get home. If you choose to bike, the extra time will be less. But if your choice is to go to the gym, that will take at least an hour.

Regular exercise contributes to better all-round health which means fewer visits to the doctor and hospital. Biking and walking contributes to a more friendly community. Our cars, with their windows rolled up discourage engagement with our neighbours.

True, Manitoba winters are not kind to cyclists, but winter cycling is not as daunting as it appears. Clothing to keep out the cold is available. Wipe-outs on ice do occur, but statistics gathered in Finland, where winter cycling is common, indicate that there are no more cycling injuries in winter than in summer.

Our bodies were not made to sit or recline most of the day. Let’s use our bodies as they were intended to be used.