Sunday, March 7, 2010

Walk For Your Life

In today's Globe West section of the Boston Globe, an interesting article about obesity in the western suburbs highlights a viewpoint that is near and dear to me. Research indicates a simple fact: people who live in walkable communities tend to be thinner and healthier than those who live in places where the automobile is the main transportation mode.

A bar graph charts the percentage of adults in each town that are obese, and I'm happy to report that Framingham is below the state average of 21%, but just barely, at 20%. The closer you get to Boston, the lower the percentage, with Brookline checking in at the lowest, at just over 10%.

As I've mentioned in a previous posting, Framingham has many walkable neighborhoods, but it seems to me that there are not as many people walking as there could be. Having a safe walking route is definitely important, but often I think people don't consider walking to a destination unless it's really close, say less than half a mile.

My fellow Framingham blogger Sharon has been beating the walkability drum for years on her excellent Planning Livable Communities web site. She's a strong advocate for making our town more accessible for walkers, and recently sent testimony to the state about making Route 9 more pedestrian friendly.

I live a mile from Nobscot village, and I walk there frequently, no matter what the season or weather. In fact, I go out of my way to walk there, combining errands with exercise. Interestingly, some of my neighbors seem to consider this a feat of sorts, if not a bit eccentric. If you're not in shape at first a couple of miles may seem difficult, but I generally walk a few miles a day (at 3-4 miles per hour) and it's definitely improved my fitness level, and a walk of several miles is not at all daunting to me.

If you don't live near destinations like stores or restaurants, remember that there's plenty of open space with walking trails in town as well, so walk to them as well if you can. Why get in the car to drive someplace to walk when you can make getting there part of the walk?

I did this during my years living in Saxonville, and have continued the tradition in Nobscot, with the Nobscot Boy Scout Reservation and adjoining Framingham conservation land being a mere half mile from my door.

So the next time you pick up your car keys for a trip to a nearby destination in town, ask yourself if you could walk instead. You'll get to know your neighborhood and neighbors better, enjoy some fresh air, and contribute to your health!