Walking builds strong sense of community

Walking builds strong sense of community

For years, our grandparents told us that people used to be friendlier and look out for each other back in the old days. Now, new research suggests they're right.

"Older neighbourhoods, where you could walk from your home to the store or park, created a stronger sense of community because they were built for walking. When you're out walking, it's natural to be more in touch with your neighbours and  what's going on," says [insert full name of program coordinator, job title and place of work] and local coordinator of the iCANwalk program.

iCANwalk is a coalition of various partners, including [insert name of local organization], that supports the development of walkable communities to improve the health of people, the environment and the economy. One of the program's goals is to create neighbourhoods that promote walking as a way of life that increases a sense of community.

Many people move to the suburbs to get away from the bustle of the city and have more space. But according to the Ontario College of Family Physicians, urban sprawl has serious effects on people's physical and mental health. People who live in the suburbs often have to commute long distances to and from work, and more driving time means less time with family and friends.

Studies in the US suggest that long-term commuting leaves people feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Commuting is also associated with back pain, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and headaches.

Women, in particular, experience more significant stress in sprawling, poorly planned communities that lack access to public transit and amenities, especially if they are balancing full-time jobs with long commutes with taking care of children and aging parents. So, choosing to walk or cycle instead of driving can improve mental health and counteract the negative effects of driving.

But that can only happen if people and community leaders work together to create more walkable communities. To make your neighbourhood more walkable, you could walk or cycle someplace you'd normally drive. On your way, fill out an iCANwalk checklist about where you went, how easy it was and what you saw along the way.

You can also sign the International Charter for Walking and pledge to walk more and take steps to make your community safer for walking.