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Life in a rural community has many benefits. The physical environment shapes the way you live, work and play.

However, because of the distance between home, work and many services, rural Albertans spend a lot of time in their vehicles. This is one factor that results in a high number of rural people living very sedentary lifestyles.

There are ways to combat sedentary living, but it takes the whole community. Try to encourage change in your community that will help you and others to be more active. Itís time to move more and sit less!

You can celebrate the fact that you donít live in the concrete jungle. It may be a little dustier, but you can step out your backdoor and experience Alberta at its best.

City dwellers drive for hours to get ďback to nature.Ē So, take another look around your home and community. Have you been speeding past some of the best trails in Alberta in your truck? Slow down, get out and get physical!

This article gives you lots of tips for being active all year round in the country as well as good ways to help make your community more active.

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Being Active All Year Round
Explore a new trail, take a pail and pick berries or go mountain biking. Instead of taking the ATV, try canoeing or kayaking at a nearby lake or river.

Are your family or friends up for some fun? Try orienteering, geocaching or other adventure games. Show your family why living in a rural community is not only fun but a great way to be physically active for everyone.

When the days get short, the temperature drops and the snow starts to pile up, we have the urge to hunker down, stock the shelves and snuggle up on the couch to wait out the winter weather.

But we are not bears. We donít need to build up our fat stores! Some places experience winter for six months or more. Thatís too long to be sitting!

Bundle up and go outside. Check out the hard-to-reach places on snowshoes and skis. Enjoy our national pastime ó strap on a pair of skates and shovel off that dugout or the local rink. Donít let waiting for ice time at the indoor rink stop you from being active.

If you want to stay indoors but are searching for something to do, set up a little circuit of exercises to follow. Clear the clothes off your treadmill. Use the TV guide to find a fitness program that you like and follow along. Make a game of it, and your kids will join in!

Staying active through the winter will keep those winter blues away and you wonít emerge in the spring grumpy as a bear!

Helping to Make Your Community More Active
Are you struggling to find ways and places to be physically active in your community? Are you bored with walking the straight, dusty, gravel road between your house and the neighbours?

Let your municipality and town council know. Your representatives will pay more attention to physical activity if people start speaking up.

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Recreation options that are low cost and easy to access make a community vibrant and attractive to old and new residents. There are many things you can do to help create a community that supports lifelong active living.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Get a group together to map walking and biking routes to various recreation areas and key services. Alberta TrailNet can help with this. Make the maps available at local stores or as an insert in the local paper. Submit a new route every other week.
  • Start a hiking group. Each week, choose different routes to explore. In the winter, keep it going by putting on snowshoes or heading inside to a gymnasium. Let the local media know what you are doing, and encourage others to join in.
  • Talk to the local school to co-ordinate a walking school bus or ways to share both indoor and outdoor facilities. This way, the whole community will have more physical activity options.
  • Ask the media to do regular stories about the benefits of physical activity and ways to be active in your rural community.
  • Approach local companies for help in developing (e.g., with benches and activity stations) or maintaining some main trails.
  • Write or petition your town council to implement traffic calming ideas in town to make walking or cycling easier.
  • Ask your council to make some trails out of town for safer recreation.
  • Help your local 4-H club with a spring ditch cleanup. Beautify your countryside and get some exercise.

Every little bit helps. One person can make a difference. You will not only improve your health but also the lives of others who join you. Be a champion in your community and encourage others to take the active journey with you.

Stuck at home? Move to the beat of your favorite CD or get off the couch during commercial breaks and break a sweat!

On the road? Pack your runners and clothes so that you can get active in the evenings. Stop to take a stretch break every hour or two if you are travelling a long distance. Take advantage of stops for fuel. Every 10-minute bit of activity counts.

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Itís never too early or too late to start. Activity works for any age, any ability, any time of year, anywhere you live.

You donít need a membership to a fancy recreation complex or fitness centre to stay active and healthy. Use your outdoor space to its fullest. You may be surprised what youíll discover when on foot, skis or two wheels.

Talk to your neighbours and take your concerns to your town or municipal council. A community that supports people being active at any age is a healthier, happier place to live.

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Learn More:
Alberta Centre for Active Living: Rural Route to Active Aging
The Rural Route to Active Aging project offers resources to promote physical activity and build capacity for physical activity opportunities for adults (55 to 75) in rural areas. Print and web-based resources are designed for practitioners, community leaders and older adults.

Alberta Orienteering Association
The Alberta Orienteering Association is responsible for organizing and promoting orienteering throughout Alberta.

Alberta TrailNet
Alberta TrailNet promotes active living through the use of recreational trails and supports trail routes as one option in the transportation system.

Volkssport Association of Alberta
A Volksmarch is an organized walk held along a trail winding through selected scenic and historic areas. Usually, the walks are 10 to 11 kilometres long. Visit the associationís website for more information about this activity.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center
The Centerís Walkability Checklist can help you find about the walkability of your community. This website also offers other resources that promote safe and active transportation for all ages.

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