Evidence / Exercise

Healthy in Hartford?

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While attending the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) meeting in Indiana this week, I’ve been marveling at the recreation-friendly vibe of Indianapolis. Because of resources such as bike rental facilities, recreation trails, pedestrian bridges crossing the White River and mileage markers placed strategically around the city, I’ve been able to walk and run my way around without ever once needing a motorized vehicle. It’s fun, engaging and easy, and it reminds me once again that the most efficacious way to make physical activity part of our lifestyle is to make it an integral aspect of our transportation network.
For example, NYC has been in the news recently for the introduction of the first new public transportation initiative in 75 years: Citi Bike. Citi Bike places over 6000 loaner bicycles in kiosks around Manhattan and Brooklyn with the purpose of providing alternative or complementary public transportation that encourages physical activity and healthy commuting. This level of support for a cycling-based transportation initiative is distinctly European in flavor. Take the city of Eindhoven in the Netherlands: since about 25% of all transportation is conducted by bicycle, which can clash with car transportation, public officials recently completed a 360 degree elevated circuitous bike bridge to alleviate cycling congestion on a major thoroughfare.

Consequently, I admit to casting a critical eye at the recreation and physical activity support in Hartford, which is why this report released today at the ACSM conference took me by surprise. Hartford ranked as the 9th fittest and healthiest city on the annual American Fitness Index, a rating based on health and environmental factors such as smoking, exercise, obesity rates, chronic health problems, access to health care, availability of parks, recreational facilities, walking trails and farmers’ markets. Indianapolis? It was 45th on the same ranking!
Although I live in the West End of Hartford, which by urban design facilitates a more physically active lifestyle, Hartford has never struck me as a region where alternative transportation and health-promoting environments and behaviors are vigorously supported. Or, perhaps they are, and it simply takes an outsider’s perspective to make one appreciate our inherent regional fitness.

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