Active transportation is any kind of human-powered form of travel! This includes walking, cycling, running, skiing, skating, skateboarding, canoeing, and more.
One of the most popular forms of active transportation is walking due to the fact that it is free and doesn’t require learning a new skill!
Active transportation is a great way to get your body moving and enjoy all the benefits that come with physical exercise. While we may not all have time to hit the gym or schedule in some structured exercise, using different forms of active transportation instead of taking a car or the bus can be just as beneficial health-wise!
Some of the benefits that come with regular physical activity include the release of endorphins, increased energy, improved quality of sleep, improved overall mood, and the prevention of cardiovascular disease, some cancers and diabetes.
In addition, choosing active transportation is great for the environment, as less fossil fuels are used, less pollution is produced, and roads are less congested.
Active transportation can have positive social effects as well! The more that people choose activities such as cycling and walking over driving, the more social a community will be. For example, the opportunity for social interactions increases significantly when you are not separated by fast-moving cars.
Barriers to active transportation
I’m sure most of us could name a few reasons why active transportation isn’t the main way we get around. For one, it can be time consuming. Second, lack of pedestrian or cyclist-oriented planning and design can make it much more difficult and less safe to get around without a car. Third, living in spaces which don’t have short distances for daily trips or high-density buildings can prevent you from using active transportation.
However, there are still ways to incorporate active transportation into your life!
Building active transportation into your life
If you’re one of the lucky ones who lives in a mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood, incorporating active transportation into your life shouldn’t be too difficult!
It will, however, take a bit of planning and the right gear! Next time you find yourself needing to run an errand, ask yourself if it is possible to walk or use your bike instead. You may need to block off a larger chunk of time, but you’ll also be able to count this time towards your daily physical activity.
Another thing to keep in mind is whether you have the proper clothing and tools. If you are choosing to run an errand or pick something up, you will want to bring along a reusable bag, backpack, or basket if you’re on a bike, in order to be as efficient as possible.
You also want to be dressed appropriately to ensure your comfort, and prevent injuries. Proper shoes are important when you’re walking or running. And when it comes to biking, always wear safety gear such as a helmet and reflective clothing and lights if you are out at dusk or when it’s dark.
Other than running errands, you might wish to bike or walk to school, family outings, get-togethers, or pretty much anywhere! I always enjoy being able to ride my bike to a meeting when I can.
Remember that you should start small when trying something new! You don’t have to walk or bike everywhere you go all of the time! Start with short distances and work your way up as you get more comfortable and gain confidence.
If you are someone who lives in an area that isn’t pedestrian friendly, consider driving or taking public transportation part way, and walking, biking, roller blading, or whatever your preferred method of active transportation is the rest of the way.
What about winter?!
Active transportation in the winter can seem daunting, but it's not as scary as you might think! But it is important dress appropriately for the activity. For walking you will simply need a good winter jacket, long underwear (depending on the temperature) and winter boots.
I like boots that lace up the ankle to provide support, but in any case, boots with good grip are a necessity in ice and snow. If conditions are icy, you may want to try ice grips or cleats that attach to the outside of your boot. Prices generally range between $15 and $30, and can really help with preventing slips on icy sidewalks.
Active Winter Wear
Layering is one of the best ways to stay comfortable and warm but not too hot when being active outdoors in the winter. The layers help to trap your body’s heat, and also allow you to easily remove a layer if you get too hot. This is especially important for any outdoor winter activity where you will heat up, so running, skating, skiing, cycling, etc. While you might be first worried about being too cold, the risk is actually with getting too hot, and then having that moisture cool you off when you slow down or stop.
A proper base layer is very helpful when it comes to dressing for cold weather exercise. Fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin is the most important factor. So, this means no cotton or other fibres that hold moisture. Synthetics are very helpful here, but Merino wool is also good and silk has some wicking properties. You need to look for a close fitting base layer as it needs to be in contact with your skin to be able to wick away the moisture.
Next you need to consider an insulating layer, and the amount of insulating that you need will depend on the temperature and your level of activity. Generally, puffier materials mean more insulation. Here a synthetic fleece - try to find one made of recycled fibres, can come in very handy, and for more insulation a down or synthetic jacket is useful.
Last, an outer shell is essential for protection from the wind, rain and snow. Without an outer shell, the wind can easily cause you to become chilled, even when you are active, and this can be dangerous - and unpleasant!
Depending on the climate and your activity level, different shell options may suit you, but generally speaking, you want to find something that is wind resistant (think nylon shell), that is at least somewhat breathable, to allow your body’s moisture to escape.
The high-end waterproof and breathable outer layers are costly, but can last many years, and may be a good investment as they can be used throughout the seasons. The mid-range water-resistant and breathable options are also useful in a wide range of situations. I am using a simple running jacket shell that I have owned for over 20 years now and it serves me well for running, skiing and skating.
Soft shells tend to be more breathable and also provide some amount of wind and rain protection. These shells may be made of stretchy synthetics and combine some insulating with some wind and water protection, and may be suited to conditions where breathability is more important than wind and rain protection.
For winter cycling, you’ll once again need the proper clothing and biking equipment. When it comes to clothing, you should wear a sweat-wicking undergarment, an insulating layer, and a wind-proof shell. If you are warm from the start, you will probably overheat quickly once you’ve been riding for a bit. You’ll also want to cover exposed skin on your neck and face with a neck tube or balaclava.
When cycling in the winter, your hands can get cold really easily, as they are stationary and right out front, facing the elements, so think warm and functional. There are specialized winter handlebar mitts to help you retain your ability to access the gear and brake levers while providing the warmth you need in cold conditions.
As for your bicycle, you need to focus on being visible with less daylight hours and potentially low-visibility during the day. So a bright headlight as well as a rear lights are essential. The handlebars should get your bright white light, while you can add supplementary lighting to your helmet so that you can direct the beam to where you need it.
The rear light should be red and flashing and mounted on the back of your bike where it will not get covered by your jacket or pack. Additional red flashing lights can be added to the back of your helmet or pack, and may be flashing out of sync with the other rear lights to make you even more visible.
Tires behave differently in winter and can loose air pressure more quickly, so they should be checked before each ride. You may want to be on the low end of the pressure range for better grip in winter, and using wider and knobbier tires or even fat bike tires to help with grip.
Winter riding is different than summer riding and should be worked up to by learning safe riding techniques and easing into the season. There are great resources online and in you local cycling community to help you get started and stay safe! Consider using a cycling App or map to help you get started.
Spring, summer, fall or winter
Whatever the season, consider how you can add some active transportation into your day! Not only do we help to reduce our fossil fuel use while getting exercise, but we also spend time in the great outdoors, as we get to where we need to go. It is a win-win-win when you can add it in safely to your routine. Have some fun with it!
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