Canadians in the north don't get enough exercise

Monday, March 09, 2009

Cold cities need more places like this.

No surprise here: people that live in the colder north don't get enough exercise. I assume this is true for other countries like Russia as well.

Northerners weigh more and exercise less than their southern cousins, and new research suggests the growing gap between the regions could be setting up the Arctic for higher rates of chronic disease from strokes to diabetes.

“There are potentially higher chronic disease risk factors in northern Canadian compared with southern Canadian populations,” says Kathleen Deering, one of the authors of the paper in the most recent Canadian Journal of Public Health.

“The higher risk factors would point to the potential for higher chronic disease prevalence in the future.”

Northern Canada has long had higher rates of conditions such as respiratory disease that are blamed on factors including cramped, poorly ventilated houses.


Southerners are also consuming less booze and tobacco.

Smoking dropped by 13 per cent in the North, but by 20 per cent in the South. The percentage of regular drinkers grew more than nine per cent in the North, outpacing the southern growth of less than six per cent.

The percentage of obese or overweight northerners increased 10 per cent, as compared with only seven per cent of southerners.

One easy way for cities to combat this is to set up areas like Devonian Gardens in Calgary:

...a fairly large indoor area that is full of plants and water and fish and all the rest, where you're able to see tons of people frequent in the winter when the temperature gets down to -30 and below and people want to remember what summer felt like. With just the right lighting this can also be effective against seasonal affective disorder (AKA the winter blues).

This doesn't come for free, of course. A city would have to weigh the benefits (healthier and happier citizens) of creating areas like this against the costs, but luckily there are ways to recoup costs. At the Devonian Gardens there are donation boxes, and there are machines where one pays for a handful of fish food to give to the carp. It would also be quite easy to charge a small admission fee (probably no more than $0.50, otherwise it would discourage people from going) to recoup costs.


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