Put Your Environment to Work for Your Workout
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Put Your Environment to Work for Your Workout

My hubby and I just got back from Washington, D.C. last night from our anniversary trip. I always try to bring you tidbits I learn while I'm away. This time, its my observations of how people stay thinner in an urban setting in their day-to-day living and how you can put this information to work for you where you live. It also gives me a chance to share a bit about my trip with you in that context. Photo mine of Capitol Dome through glass skylight above Capitol Visitors Center.



Active Transportation and Fitness

If you want to get around a metropolis like D.C., driving your own car is the worst option. It could take you an hour to get somewhere that anywhere else would take you 15 minutes. We decided to take the Metrorail, a combination of train and subway that travels both above and below ground. This one has color-coded lines with various stops and transfer stations. Now it might seem that riding this would keep you from being physically active, but the opposite is true. Photo mine of D.C. Metrorail station greenline to Archives.

You have to get to the Metro station in the first place. There were bike racks with bikes chained to them. Some people took their bikes on the rail with them. You also have to get to your destination from the closest stop. Some people might take a Metro bus to locations you can't get to by rail, but most people walked several city blocks to go to work, shopping, and entertainment. There are stairs involved almost everywhere, but of course, there are handicap accessible ramps and elevators. Most people wore comfortable, durable shoes for walking. Only a few women wore strappy sandals with thin soles and few men wore pointy-toed oxfords. It appeared that most people were prepared to walk for long distances.

I was very surprised at the end of a day in D.C. Just walking around in one day of sightseeing in the Capitol district, I racked up 19,151 steps that day! I also climbed 35 floors  and my calorie burn was 2,091, according to my Fitbit. Compared to a workday at our house, I had 17,26 steps, climbed 87 floors, and burned 2,279 calories walking, stooping, lifting, shoveling, etc. When my hubby asked me if I wanted to ride a paddle boat out to the Jefferson Memorial at the end of our day, I rolled my eyes and asked, "Are you kidding?" He was relieved that I wasn't up for it. We walk a lot, but not that much every day on concrete surfaces. Photo of Fitbit step count mine.

Active Transport, Walkable, and Weight Management

Earlier this year, I introduced you to the concept of the obesogenic environment when I studied a CEC course for recertification. An obseogenic environment supports obesity through food choices and lack of active spaces in the communities. On the other hand, Active Transportation and Walkable Communities support healthy weight and fitness. This is achieved through healthier, nutrient-dense, lower calorie food options and opportunities for more physical activity and exercise in the places people spend the most time. I was able to experience Active Transport and Walkable communities first hand.

So, if you noticed, I could easily burn over 2,000 calories just walking. Active transportation, even though it takes you to your destination in a fraction of the time across a large city, you have to walk to get to the bus or rail and walk to your destination. Since you don't have a car with you, you have to get around on foot or bicycle from place to place. That means people in communities with public transportation instead of using personal vehicles burn more calories per day for similar types of work, most of which are office or service jobs. Now, if you stay away from the street wagon food vendors and eat in a cafeteria or local sandwich shop, you can find healthier food options which there are a lot of them. The cafeteria in the basement of the Cannon and Langston Tunnel to the Capitol building has a great selection of healthy options like salads, fresh fruit, sandwiches with whole grain bread, veggies, and turkey. So, if you pick lower calorie foods and walk that much, you can easily trim your waistline. Photo of walkers and protestors in front of White House mine.

My Own Environment Put to Work

I live in a small town surrounded by farm land. My hubby commutes an hour to work every day in his car. His work is primarily at a desk or meeting table. I work from home, but I have more opportunity to get physical activity than my hubby. Even though there is a gym at work, he often has meetings that run through his lunch hour. I can walk to my doctor and dentist, but I don't ride my bike because there isn't a place to lock my bike. I could ride my bike to the grocery store and post office, but there aren't places to lock my bike there either. They did put in a bike lane last year, which my hubby and I use when we ride around town to help residents become aware of it's use. We can easily walk around town, but it is dangerous to walk to the grocery store here because of the traffic and lack of awareness of the drivers who frequent the shopping area. It has more opportunities than in the country, but there is still a long way to go.

I purposely put activity into my days by working out at home or the local recreation center, ride my bike around town or on the trails, and walk when the weather is nice. My hubby has a harder time getting his exercise since his back injury made it painful to run like he used to do.  This garden project required tilling, raking, picking up rocks, setting boxes, hauling bags of soil, etc. One way I'm considering getting more exercise opportunities is to put some tires and rocks to use in the yard of our house. I can do a junkyard-style workout with them. There are always ways to work in exercise wherever you live and work. You don't have to do killer workouts to stay trim and healthy if you make your environment work for you. I do advocate doing regular workouts that include cardio, weights, and flexibility to maintain lean muscle mass, greater muscle and bone density, and better heart and vascular health, though. It takes more thought and planning. Photo mine of my garden in progress this year. It isn't finished yet.

What opportunities do you see in your community to stay active and make healthier food choices? I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below. May God bless you!

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