we don’t see so much lawn round here. concrete? yes. lawn? no.

I found this article via B who’s attention was caught by the article’s argument that walking 1-3 hours a week improved women’s breast cancer survival rate by 50%, but more specifically, B was interested in the (less excellent) results of chemotherapy. Go to B’s blog and read her discussion there.
But my attention was caught not only by this article (which I traced back to the full academic article), but by the zillions of others which were, essentially, saying nothing more than ‘if you get some exercise, you won’t die or get sick’. It worries me so much that we have come to the point where we must beg people to walk just 1-3 hours a day so they don’t die or get ill. I mean, 1-3 hours, what’s that?
– walking half an hour every day. That might mean (as I do), choosing to walk to a further-away bus stop in the morning (let alone the afternoon!)
– saying to your partner “let’s walk to the video shop to return this DVD – it’s only 15minutes each way” and then doing it, and holding hands while you tell each other about your day
– walking to the park to look at the soccer doods running about. Or to watch the cricketers doing… whatever it is that actually happens in cricket. Manipulating those odds, I guess.
– walking about in a shopping center, aimlessly without buying anything. Or walking up the road to look at the awesome easter lights in the neighbourhood.
I know it sounds insane, but for many people, driving a car means not doing these little things. They drive to the video shop. They drive to the supermarket. They drive to the ice cream shop. They drive everywhere, even if it’s only a 10 minute bike ride or a 20 minute walk, just because they have a car. And because they think of walking as something you get in a car to go do in a park. Or are too unfit to find any pleasure in.
I know I’m lucky enough to live in a walk-friendly suburb, but riding my bike around (horrible) Reservoir, I’ve noticed far fewer pedestrians. Brunswick has a lot of nannas – and you see them wandering around the neighbourhood. In Reservoir, at what would be prime-wandering time? Nothing. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, or because people are busy hiding in their houses, or perhaps a bit frightened of being exposed out there on those huge expanses of lawn*, but really. What are they doing in there?
Since I’ve stopped having a car (ie, since I moved to Melbourne, six years ago), and since I discovered that having a nice bike encourages you to ride about, I’ve noticed that the way I think about my neighbourhood, the way I think about getting to places has changed. I found those first few weeks of teaching so tiring because I was just getting on the bus, then getting off – I wasn’t doing enough exercise. But since I decided to start the whole ‘walk half an hour to the bus rather than 15 minutes’ thing, and the ‘ride your bike to the train, then train, then ride to the uni and then vice versa on the way home’ thing, I’ve had so much more energy, and I feel so much better.
I’m hardly a super athelete cyclist. I ride very slowly, I’m afraid of hills (though FUCK you should have SEEN ME TODAY!!!! I flew up that Melville Road hill that dips down to the Merri Creek! I was AMAZING!), I don’t like to spend more than an hour on the bike at any one time (actually, half an hour’s about where I draw the line these days), I have no interest in developing any training routine or any of that bullshit.
I just toodle along on the thing. That is how I get around my neighbourhood – I ride to the shops to do the groceries (and lug the bastards home), I ride to the city to go dancing, or to see a film, or to go to the dentist, I ride to the GP (though riding home + pap smear = not great fun), to the pub, to get ice cream at 10pm on a warm spring night.
And it’s enough – think of all those lovely hormones being stimulated (that seems to be the crux of the breast cancer thing – you’re more likely to benefit if your breast cancer is hormone respondant; type 2 diabetes is directly related to not getting enough exercise, and insulin is a hormone, as we all know). Not to mention the way it triggers those sweet, sweet endorphines. I might be covered in sweat, with aching legs, a runny nose and coughing up a gut, but dang I feel good when I get to the university in the morning!
So, really, there’s no point to this post other than to point out how sad it is that we have to push people to do so little exercise. We’re not saying ‘join a gym and WORK IT’, we’re saying ‘go have a nice wander round your neighbourhood to steal lemons from the alley one street up’ or ‘take half an hour to hold hands with someone you love in the outdoors’ or ‘take that silly argument about which Buffy episode is best to the streets’. When you build that bit of exercise into your life – when you do the extra bit of walking to the tram, or leave the car at home when you go to get ice cream after dinner – you make so great a difference to your health that it would mean living or dying to someone with breast cancer. Imagine that – so little effort for such an amazing effect!
And we haven’t even talked environmental benefits yet!
But I cannot over-emphasise how important riding a bike is to my lifestyle. That’s how I get to the pub on Saturday. That’s how I get to the city to go dancing. That’s how I (now – yay!) get to the university (in part). That’s how I get to the shops to do my grocery shopping. And I’m not a super athlete – I am a little, round person who gets very pink, sweats a lot and is a bit afraid of large trucks. Imagine if you were a super athlete!
Imagine if we all rode our bikes to work every single day! Or even just to the train station!
… and have I mentioned how wonderful it is to have a shouty conversation while riding a bike home from the cinema? It’s the best.
*I live in Brunswick, ok? We don’t see so much lawn round here. Concrete? Yes. Lawn? No.


4 responses to “we don’t see so much lawn round here. concrete? yes. lawn? no.”

  1. I am in awe of you riding in Melbourne. I love riding my bike, but Canberra is really built for bikes, and it’s very easy to get around. I ride to work at least 3 times a week, and it’s the best.
    PS: Don’t ask Zoe to get on a bike when she’s been drinking. She falls off. Very quickly. Which is a shame because riding drunk is a hoot (and illegal, kids).

  2. DFE: you can only eat that triple mars bar if you give up that pathetic excuse for exercise blues dancing action, and get _serious_ with your lindy hop – nothing under 200bpm!
    I’ll be up in Canberra in December, Ducky, and I’m seriously thinking about taking my bike. Though I just _know_ it would guarantee rain.
    Zoe: that’s a nice thing to say. :)