I was very fortunate recently to spend two weeks in the Netherlands. What an amazing country and what wonderful people!
What struck me most though, is their lifestyle. Bicycles are everywhere. Not the fast thin type, just upright sturdy bikes, perfect for a mom to easily ride to the local grocery store with a 1 year old in front and a 4 year old in the back. There are bike lanes, dedicated bike lanes. Not just a simple white line on the road, but actual lanes away from the main road, where people could ride safely.
Outside the main railway station in Amsterdam, bikes are stacked up two levels. People take the train in from their local town then cycle to work, and then cycle back to the train in the evening to make their way home.
Their houses are small, and local stores allow them to walk and get groceries and other necessities. Thus, everyone seems to walk everywhere. It's a way of life. They don't complain about not being able to drive, they simply get on their bike and ride. Surprisingly, not just younger people, but also quite a large proportion of their older people do this also.
From our small hotel we would walk and get our food on a daily basis. No need to go to a big box store and load up on an excess of food.
Coming back here, I see our car oriented way of living and how detrimental it is to our health. Now, I wish I had a solution to this, but I don't. However, even though we haven't advanced enough to consider better cycling lanes and easy accessibility to stores, I wonder if a shift in our attitude might force us to move more. What I’m getting at is the willingness to walk to a store, if it's reasonably close, rather than drive. Also, might we not also try to get off the bus a few stops further from our work and walk the rest of the way?
Generally, and through no real fault of our own, we have accepted the car as our only mode of transportation. We've forgotten our bikes, worse, we've forgotten our legs. Maybe even worse, we've forgotten our health, and our need to move.
If there is a store near you, next time you need just a couple of things, why not just try to walk there, and not use your car. Or, even better, try just going for a walk in the evening or early morning.
Now, I know we all feel tired in the evening, but we can't use that as an excuse. Walk, or cycle, go to the pool or gym. We must try to instill more activity into our daily lives. Yes, it would be easier if we had neighbourhoods with safe bike and walking lanes, and more nearby stores rather than the massive Costco's and super stores, but possibly we could attempt to use our cars a bit less, and walk a bit more.
Watching and experiencing the Dutch lifestyle, I know if we moved there we would quickly adapt to their use of bikes. It is within us, we just must make it a priority to move.
Just keep on trying, and don't ever give up on trying to improve your health through a more active lifestyle!