How many of you think we are spending enough time outdoors? Getting into the garden or going on some nice long walks? Or maybe playing some social sport.

Judging by the number of expired gym memberships I’d say not enough. In fact half of Australian Adults are not active enough.

And I know that the pressures of family, work and school certainly play their part in keeping us from being more active, but the way our neighbourhoods are also designed and built also influences the amount of physical activity we do.

When it comes to finding out more about improving our activity levels and good heart health, you need to ask someone who knows. Tuesday Udell is Senior Policy Advisor at the Heart Foundation SA.

Physical inactivity is a major health problem in its own right. About half of Australian adults are not sufficiently physically active to gain health benefits.

The National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend accumulating 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity, or exercise that makes you huff and puff, each week.

Walking for at least 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as half.

Local councils, developers and planners need to create environments where walking, cycling and other forms of physical activity and sport are appealing, accessible and safe.

To help planners, the Heart Foundation has developed evidenced based healthy neighbourhood guidelines, such as the award winning ‘Healthy By Design’. These guidelines are used by government, councils, planners and developers to incorporate healthy design features into new suburbs and to retrofit existing suburbs.

These design features include:
– A range of quality green open spaces and parks within 400m walking distance of all houses.
– Easily accessible frequent public transport. Those who travel by public transport average 41 minutes daily of cycling or walking, whereas those who travel to work by car average just 8 minutes of activity per day.
– Bike/walking paths, shaded, seats, signage
– Close access to shops, services and public amenity for the area
– Streets are designed for people, and are green and leafy
– They have diverse housing options, that are affordable, with medium density options
– They are safe, with plenty of people on the streets, and parents feel comfortable letting their children walk and cycle to the local school

Telling people to exercise and eat well is not enough, we need to make healthy choices, the easy choices. The way our neighbourhoods and cities are designed, can have a huge impact on our physical activity levels and our heart health.

Good design elements of a neighbourhood that have an impact on our everyday activity and health?

Design features that makes a street more walkable are established green, leafy trees. When a path or street is lined with trees, more people are encouraged to walk as the trees provide shade in the summer, protection from the rain, children can climb them, they attract the wildlife making the street vibrant and inviting place to walk.

Also, where you have low shrubs and plantings around open space and houses fronting onto the open space, you design in safety. This means wherever you walk, you know that people will be able to see you and therefore, you can feel safe.

One local Adelaide council has been spending a lot of time and resources in turning St Clair into a heart healthy and active suburb designed to promote physical activity, health and wellbeing………
… with walking and cycling infrastructure
… signage and well connected paths
… great streets, local destinations, quality open space
… housing choice
… public transport options
… We know that decisions about how land is used will affect the health of South Australians now, and for many generations to come.

If you would like any more information on healthy neighbourhoods or just staying physically active, head to the Heart Foundation website.






About The Author

In the Garden is an exciting new local South Australian TV program on Channel 9 this Summer & next Autumn showcasing the best ‘green’ stories this state has to tell. Check out the latest in garden trends, new plants and top tips to keep those gardens blooming.