Putting the Spring Back in Your Step

Six days into spring, and although the air is frigid, and all the snow has yet not melted, the quality of light is trumpeting spring. It was an unusually harsh winter, even by Canadian standards, which left most Canadians avoiding the snow and ice-covered sidewalks. Now that the sidewalks are clear it’s time to think about heading back outdoors to exercise.

According to the Canadian Physical Activities Guidelines, “to achieve health benefits, and improve functional abilities, adults age 65 years and older should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more”. Brisk walking is considered a moderate intensity physical activity.

The weather may be improving but is the built environment conducive to safe and enjoyable walks for older adults?

The Senior Walking Assessment Tool – Revised (SWEAT-R) is, “an instrument for measuring built environmental features associated with physical activity of older adults” according to an article called “Revising the senior walking environmental tool“. According to the article, “SWEAT-R provides easy to gather, reliable data for use in community-based audits of built environment”. Some of the characteristics that are measured to ensure a good environment for older adults include:

  1. Intended pedestrian crossings at the end of the streets
  2. Crosswalk markings
  3. Traffic signals, stop signs, pedestrian crossing signs
  4. Pedestrian overpass or underpass
  5. Length of the traffic/pedestrian signal times
  6. Curb heights
  7. Trees
  8. Land use
  9. Gathering places
  10. Benches
  11. Quality of public use spaces
  12. Sidewalk quality
  13. Street lights
  14. Restrooms

How would you rate these characteristics on your favourite walking route?

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