Cold weather is no excuse to quit moving

Joel
Joel van der Veen
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That old adage of Saskatchewan winters — don’t get too excited if we have nice weather now, we’ll pay for it later — was proven true once again last week.

Mild weather on Tuesday resulted in ice forming on roads across the city, making the drive to work or school far more treacherous than usual.

But another, oft-overlooked group was also threatened by the increased peril caused by the thaw: those who commute to their daily activities by foot.

Pedestrians in Moose Jaw were forced into a somewhat comical penguin imitation routine as they manoeuvred their way to their destinations.

As one who counts himself among this group, I’m an advocate of walking as much as possible. Granted, it’s an easy position to take for the majority of the year.

Typically, my van sees little use during the week. Once December hits, though, it becomes more tempting to drive to work, thus avoiding that bitter chill.

But there are factors to consider beyond comfort. First of all, I’d have to plan ahead: plugging in my vehicle, ensuring it’s got sufficient fuel, and negotiating for a parking space, a treasured commodity at my workplace.

Driving would also mean higher costs, both financially and physically. Besides paying for gas and electricity, I’d also lose that small burst of exercise twice daily.

According to the calorie calculator at About.com, the walk to work and back burns between 70 and 90 calories each day, depending on my speed. That’s not much — in fact, it’s negated by a factor of two if I enjoy a can of Coke at lunch — but every bit counts.

A report from Statistics Canada indicates many Canadians would benefit by taking a cue from us pedestrians and following in our footsteps (har har!). The economic impact of physical inactivity was estimated at $5.3 billion in Canada in 2001.

Thirty minutes of moderate daily exercise, such as walking, provides some health benefits, including a decreased risk of chronic diseases and conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, depression, stress and anxiety.

Some reports suggest it would be necessary to bump that up to an hour per day to prevent putting on weight, but 30 minutes daily is a great start, and it’s more exercise than a lot of North Americans currently get.

Snow and ice on sidewalks provide a further deterrent to many would-be walkers. Moose Jaw’s official stance is to encourage a “good neighbour” policy, as Mayor Deb Higgins told reporter Lisa Goudy last month.

Higgins said the city asks residents to remove the snow from their front sidewalks so that they can be safely accessed. The city appears to have its hands full keeping the streets clear, so this is unlikely to change.

Somehow, this policy has proven surprisingly effective in some neighbourhoods, and I tip my hat to those stalwart citizens who abide by it.

The city’s snow removal bylaw requires those in business zones and other specified areas to remove heavy snow from their sidewalks within 48 hours. Many have also followed this edict admirably.

Those looking for further stomping grounds have several options. Walking trails in Wakamow Valley Park are maintained during the winter months.

As well, the city parks department says a good portion of the Rotary Trail is kept clear (along Thatcher Drive from Ninth Avenue West to Caribou Street West), as well as selected trails near Sunningdale Elementary School.

So don’t let the cold dissuade you. Get out and keep moving — even if you’re wistfully keeping an eye on summer at the same time.

Joel van der Veen can be reached at 691-1256.

Organizations: About.com, Statistics Canada, Sunningdale Elementary School

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada Wakamow Valley Park Ninth Avenue West

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