(Reported in the Hamilton Spectator, Sept 13, 2021)
I am sure many of us have done more walking since the pandemic began. However, now that restrictions are being lifted, it is important to keep up this good habit, walking to the corner store to pick up a few items, walking for exercise, walking the dog — it is not hard to find a reason to lace up and get walking. In fact, there is now a 24-hour Movement Guide for adults aged 65 years or older, which recommends minimizing sedentary behaviour for health benefits. This report can be found on the Hamilton Council on Aging website coahamilton.ca under the tab “Our Priorities Age-Friendly Resources-Health and Community Services.”
While walking is good exercise, it can be made even better, according to many research studies. First of all, the step — heel, ball, toe — is important, not only to exercise the whole foot but also to keep good posture — head held high and arms swinging. For more information on this topic, visit physiobiometrics.com.
Gait speed is another aspect of walking that is important for your overall health. Like your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and rate of breathing, walking speed may be an important new vital sign. The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal is an excellent resource on this and other topics related to mobility. There is information on how to improve walking speed, how to make walking safer and more enjoyable, exercises that can be done to improve balance and avoid falls as well as the 10-Metre Walk Test: how to measure it and what steps to take to increase it. See e-learning at mcmasteroptimalaging.org.
On the same site, there is also a blog on the use of nordic poles. There are many nordic pole walking groups led by instructors in Hamilton as well as classes that you can join at several senior centres. Nordic pole walking has also been added to the Hamilton-Wentworth 55-Plus Games.
The City of Hamilton has many recreation trails and the Hamilton Council on Aging has published Let’s Get Moving: a guide to outdoor recreational trails. This guide to Hamilton’s Outdoor Recreational Trails has complete information, including the location by car and public transit, the length and condition of the surface, degree of difficulty and accessibility features. This guide is also available at coahamilton.ca under the tab “Age-Friendly Resources-Things to Do.”
Pedestrian safety is another aspect of walking. The efficient flow of cars used to be the standard for street design. However, Hamilton has now adopted a complete, livable, better street design model (CLB). The CLB model is based on the principle that streets are a public space that equitability considers the needs and safety of all users. Currently, the city is developing a CLB streets design manual. You may follow the development of this manual on engage.hamilton.ca.
In 2019, the City of Hamilton also adopted the Hamilton Strategic Road Safety Program and Vision Zero Action Plan and created a committee made up of staff from several departments, including Public Works, Public Health and the Hamilton Police Services, along with representatives from several community and advisory groups, including the Seniors Advisory Committee. This road safety plan aims to reduce road accidents significantly by evaluation, engineering, enforcement, education and engagement measures.
As part of the evaluation process, statistics on road accidents between 2014 and 2017 involving all users have been gathered. The analysis reveals that most pedestrian fatalities and injuries occurred at intersections where the pedestrian had the right-of-way and the motorists drove straight through without paying attention to pedestrians. Secondary incidents occurred when vehicles were turning left or right and the pedestrian had the right of way. The Strategic Road Safety Committee is now developing engineering, enforcement, education and engagement strategies to reduce these types of accidents. For further information, consult Living In/Streets and Transportation at hamilton.ca.
Finally, the Hamilton Council on Aging, the Seniors Advisory Committee and McMaster University are developing a new Let’s Take a Walk workshop. This workshop will give information on crossovers, proper footwear, walking aids as well as walking techniques and an assessment of each participant’s gait speed against the timed light signals at street crossings. Please consult the Hamilton Council on Aging website coahamilton.ca or your local senior centre for further information. We hope to meet you walking very soon.
Click here for the Hamilton Spectator article.