Active RVA’s summit featured ideas to improve region’s fitness

People discuss active transportation during the Active RVA Summit at the VCU Health systems' Larrick Center, March 7, 2016.It doesn’t take much to add a little extra fitness into your daily lifestyle, according to much of the presentations and discussions during the Active RVA Summit held Monday at the VCU Health System’s Larrick Center.

For the second year, the fitness grade for the Richmond region was a C+ on the2015 Richmond region fitness scorecard, according to Active RVA, an organization that is part of Sports Backers. Read more about the scorecard and summit on my story at Richmond.com.

I was only able to sit in on two breakout sessions. In the afternoon, Elina Urli Hodges of Pevention Partners and Tom Richards of the American Council on Exercise addressed ways to create an active workplace.

Among the many recommendations Hodges made, reinforcing the idea of holding standing or walking meetings was my favorite. I spend enough time sitting at a desk, why would I want to spend more time in a meeting sitting? She also recommended that companies should consider offering 30 minutes of paid fitness time to promote wellness.

Richards pointed out that by being trapped sitting at desks, we’re moving less and burning less calories in our work days. We need to be more active. “It might not make you smarter, but it makes you feel smarter” when you include some fitness in your work day. “Bad health is bad for business,” he said.

In the early session on active transportation, the panel included David Green, the CEO of GRTC; Andy Clarke of Toole Design Group; and Ursula Lemanski of the National Parks Service. The group focused on ways for communities to embrace alternative transit to enhance their fitness options.

“I don’t think people think about transit when they think about active living,” Green said. “Transit can be intimidating; they don’t know how to ride. Once they try it they often say they can’t believe how easy it is.”

Green said a key to creating better mobility and independence for people may be to incorporate bus transit in their daily commutes, which can lead to a more active lifestyle.

“It’s a different world than 30 years ago when people wanted to drive and park everywhere…we need to shift land use priorities,” he said. “We need to give people more options for transit.”

People are going to choose the easiest option, so the challenge is to make walking, riding a bike or taking the bus more appealing and make them work together, Clark said.

“The ability to put your bike on the front of a bus to connect to other destinations is critical. But it has got to be fun and easy,” he said.

Barbara Nelson of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission added that she’s aware of many people deciding to skip the gym and drop their membership because they started biking and walking for transit rather than spending time in the gym.

That is me. I’ve never been one to enjoy the gym anyway and have “donated” years worth of money to the YMCA. My family recently decided to save that money. So far in 2016, I’ve been very dedicated to replacing even more of my car trips with my bicycle, which has lead to me biking more than 300 miles since January. That is more than 300 miles that I didn’t drive, more than 300 miles I didn’t burn fuel and more than 300 miles that were more fun than if I had been in a car.  My fitness scorecard is looking better for it.

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