Healthy? On your bike

A NEW program being run by North Coast Health Promotion aims to tackle two of the biggest problems faced by Western society today: Obesity and climate change.

The program is called 'Resilient Communities' and will encourage people to use 'active transport' such as walking and riding bikes.

The co-ordinator of the new program, Annie Kia, said many strategies to prevent climate change will also improve the health of the population.

“One example of this is in relation to transport. Our dependence on cars adds to greenhouse gases that put us at risk of dangerous global warming,” Ms Kia said.

“At the same time, car dependence makes us less active and more overweight.

“This puts us at risk of chronic heart disease and diabetes. The preventative remedy for both planet and human health is to make it easier for people to use active forms of transport, such as cycling, walking, and use of car sharing and public transport.”

The co-ordinator of nutrition and physical activity at the North Coast Area Health Service, Jillian Adams, said the more car-dependent someone was, the more likely they were to be overweight.

“From a health point of view, the more time we spend in cars the less time is spent walking. Every 60 minutes a day in a car increases one's odds of being obese by 6 per cent, and each kilometre walked reduces the odds of being obese by 4.8 per cent,” she said.

Ms Adams acknowledged the thing that stopped a lot of people riding around the Lismore area was a lack of bike tracks and the steep hills. She said she would like to see buses fitted with bike racks in the future so people had the option to ride to town, downhill, and get the bus back.

The program will also encourage the production of fruit and vegetables for consumption in the local area.

According to Ms Adams, 88 per cent of people don't eat enough fruit and vegetables.

She said if the costs of transport and fertiliser continued to rise, pushing up the price of fresh produce, even fewer people would get the adequate nutrition they needed.

“We have called this program Resilient Communities because climate change presents risks from rising costs of food and other essentials,” Ms Adams said.

“At the same time there are opportunities. We are fortunate to have good soil and rainfall, and the creativity of our communities.

“This program is about working with others to help build the resilience of our communities so they are able to adapt to climate change.”

The program has been successful is attracting $60,000 from NSW Health, and Ms Kia said they had already started talking to the councils at Lismore, Coffs Harbour and Bellingen to get them involved.

The Northern Rivers Regional Development Board will also be involved and Ms Kia said they hoped to work with other key regional organisations to build the resilience of North Coast communities.

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