Organizations make Parry Sounders move
PARRY SOUND - There’s a surefire way to reduce your risk of contracting a wide range of diseases.
The simple act of regular exercise has been shown to help people stay healthy and disease-free and, at a breakfast forum held by the West Parry Sound Active Transportation Committee last Thursday, ideas were discussed that would help get more Parry Sounders out and exercising.
Sue Woodhouse, member of the West Parry Sound Active Transportation Committee, spoke at the forum about the importance of being active.
“At any age the people who move more are the people who are healthier and live longer,” said Woodhouse. “Activity is really the miracle drug of our time, but we don’t have the cost for it, and we don’t have the side effects. It’s pretty simple, in reality though, it isn’t that simple. If we can’t move safely we won’t do it.”
Held at Kudos Kuisine, the meeting featured three groups of presenters who talked about the benefits of a more active life and a few things currently being worked on that can help local people be more active in their day-to-day lives.
One area of discussion brought up multiple times at the forum was the importance of making it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle around the region. In particular, supporting infrastructure that made it safer for children to walk to and from school was discussed as being crucial to establishing an active living pattern early in life.
Woodhouse said the trend has been towards fewer children walking and cycling to school, because parents say they lack confidence that their children will be safe when walking.
“So starts the pattern of a lack of activity, and it’s terrible consequences right at the beginning of a young, vulnerable life. We have to work together to change that pattern,” Woodhouse said.
One presenter at the forum, Carolyn Tong, spoke about strategies communities can take to better promote active living. A health promotion specialist with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Tong said the right infrastructure decisions can encourage people to walk, jog or cycle to their destination more often.
“How our environment is shaped affects how people will move, live and be. If you think about it, people are like most things in nature - we will find the path of least resistance. Like water on rocks, they will always find the path of least resistance, and the physical shape always effects the way people will live,” said Tong.
By creating and maintaining features like dedicated bike lanes and sidewalks, municipalities are able to encourage citizens to leave their cars at home more often.
Tong pointed out that when municipalities close off streets for special events people always flock to walk through the open street. She also presented statistics that showed people are far more likely to walk in neighborhoods with sidewalks.
The dominance of the car in people’s Parry Sound traveling plans was plainly visible, even within the group of dignitaries who had attended the forum. When Tong queried the group about how everyone got to the venue, only a small minority had arrived by something other than a vehicle.
Norm Miller, MPP for Parry Sound - Muskoka, spoke at the forum. He talked about a bill he introduced to the Ontario Legislature that would require certain provincial highways to have a paved shoulder installed.
He said passage of the bill would increase safety for cyclists, encourage biking in the region and reduce the cost of road maintenance.
“For cyclists, one of the main reasons people don’t cycle is they’re worried about being killed or hurt. Having a safe place to cycle is very important. Safety is not just about cyclists, It’s also about the drivers of automobiles.” said Miller.
For more information on healthier ways to travel in the Parry Sound area, visit the West Parry Sound Active Transportation website at www.wpsactivetrans.org.