Hiking and the Environment

“I got taller today walking through the trees.” Karl Wilson Baker

We all know that exercise is good for you. And walking is probably the easiest form to get into.

But did you know that walking plays a role in improving your environment?

Walking improves our quality of life as it helps to protect the living environment and natural resources. It can also be placed in transportation systems.

The additional health and environmental benefits come from the fact that walking is a pollution-free activity. It is also a quiet pastime. Thus we benefit from cleaner air and there is also a reduction in traffic noise.

“Walking is highly efficient in urban space and energy use, rarely causing injury and providing vitality and personal safety to the streets. Many car journeys are quite short, less than 2 km, suggesting that walking can be a viable alternative and can contribute to walking only short to reduce pollution from a cold-starting vehicle traveling a long distance.”

C. Mason, Transport and health: on the way to a healthier Australia? Australian Medical Journal 2000

There are active groups in North America and Europe researching better walking opportunities in urban communities. They argue that walking opens communities and contributes to quality of life for all.

In 1996, Dan Burden founded Walkable Communities (http://www.walkable.org) in Florida. Walkable Communities aim,

“…helping all communities, whether large cities, small towns, or parts of communities such as neighborhoods, business districts, parks, school districts, subdivisions, certain road corridors, etc., becomes more walkable and pedestrian friendly. “

In the UK, Living Streets (http://www.livingstreets.org.uk) is a similar organization that expresses its aims as follows:

“… the champion of streets and public spaces for pedestrians. We are working on practical projects to create safe, vibrant and healthy streets for all.

Local streets are a service we all use. But for decades, traffic priorities have been allowed to overwhelm them, leaving them dirty and unsafe. Vibrant streets help revitalize neighborhoods and reconnect people.”

These organizations and their campaigns to rid our communities of excessive traffic seem logical. It is true that most of the pollution we find in the air is caused by motor vehicles.

Pollution from vehicles can contribute to health problems. Diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, increased stress and sleep disturbance have been found to be linked to increased air pollution.

Walking improves health because every walk reduces air pollution.

So, would you like to go for a walk today? Every step you take plays a role in developing your local community.

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