Wednesday, 20 June 2012

I wanted a car; I got a bike

When I turned 16, I wanted a driver's licence and a car. What I got instead was a bike and a suggestion that I find a job. To the surprise of everyone, myself included, I actually rode that bike—admittedly not often, since my high school was 12 kilometres away. 

Sadly, regular physical activity has become increasingly difficult to achieve for adults and children alike. According to the World Health Organization, physical activity is now the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality (WHO, 2010). 

Governments, politicians, and health officials around the world are struggling to find ways to combat this trend. For example, in Melbourne Australia, 55.3% of young people walked to school or higher education in 1970, compared with 22.2% in 1994. Parents' fear about road safety is one of the contributing factors.  

Interestingly, when we moved to Oak Bay, our son decided that he wasn't ready to change schools. We gave him a bike and told him he had to get himself to school—we were not driving. The most dangerous part of his daily commute? Riding past the local school, which was clogged every morning with cars dropping off children. 

Active lifestyles can start at any age but it sure helps to start off young. I credit my parents active use of the word "no" ("we are not driving") to my walking and cycling habits today. 

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