'Obesity Warrior' Outlines Path to Increased Physical Activity

James Sallis, this year’s winner of the Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health, discusses the obstacles to increasing opportunities for physical activity in our communities, and how to overcome them.

The author of more than 500 studies on "how the design of our neighbourhoods affects physical activity, obesity, nutrition and active transportation," Sallis was recognized this year for his "impact on the health and well-being of a wide spectrum of the population," reports Jill Barker.

"A good portion of Sallis’s research is based on the importance of making travelling to work, play and shopping [by bike or on foot] easier," but in conducting this research he's come to understand many of the obstacles to achieving these goals, including the outdated priorities of transportation experts and the difficulties of adapting typical suburban environments. "[D]espite a consensus in most communities that safe bike routes, walking corridors and parks are important," notes Barker, "when it comes to implementation, the old NIMBY (not in my back yard) principle tends to prevail."

“I hear stories all the time from people who asked for traffic-calming measures to be installed so they can safely walk their child to school, only to be faced with a hate campaign from other parents who don’t want traffic slowed down,” Sallis said.

Among Sallis's suggestions for city planners to help promote physical activity is to modify parks to include more opportunities for active play, rather than "getting rid of baseball diamonds, ice rinks, play structures and tennis and basketball courts in favour of pristine green spaces."

“If you doubt just how much our society is tilted against physical activity, try persuading your local school that our kids need daily physical education,” Sallis said.

Full Story: Sedentary in the city: How the design of our neighbourhoods can keep us fit — or fat

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