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Key to healthier Anchorage lies in pedestrian-friendly city planning

Craig Medred
Loren Holmes photo

Though the evidence is thin, at best, that making kids wear bike helmets will prevent serious cycling injuries, Anchorage's city fathers years ago passed a local ordinance requiring said helmets. What might they do now that there is documented evidence that sitting for extended periods of time is killing us all slowly?

How about mandatory get-out-of-your-chair hours for city offices?

A new study has found "reducing the daily average time that people spend sitting to less than three hours would increase the U.S. life expectancy by two years," MSNBC reported. OK, some of the city's conservative politicians will argue MSNBC is a left-leaning news organization, so here's the Fox News version: "Sit less, live 2 years longer."

Fox goes on:

Previous studies have linked sedentary behavior with a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which all contribute to increased mortality rates ... (Researcher Dr. Peter) Katzmarzyk said the workplace, in particular, is an area where improvements can be made to decrease time spent sitting and improve health. 'Some people have very active professions, like nurses, waitresses and construction workers who are constantly on their feet,' he said. 'On the other hand, there’s a large segment of the population who sit in front of computers.'

Yes, they do. You're likely sitting in front of one now.

All indications are this might be more dangerous than riding your bike, with or without a helmet.

Maybe there is an opportunity here for conservative Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, a former basketball player and one-time Alaska Club manager, to set a good example for the citizenry. He could take his staff meetings outdoors for a stroll around the Park Strip instead of sitting around a desk.

"There are a lot of options to break up sedentary behavior during the day," Katzmarzyk told Fox. "Some ideas being tested are the use of treadmill desks or stand-up desks."

Katzmarzyk also recommended walking over to a coworker’s desk and speaking in person, rather than emailing them, as well as "walking meetings."

Ah, the walking meeting out in the glory of the Alaska scenery the tourists flock here to see ... What more could anyone want? Maybe the city should pass an ordinance making such meetings mandatory.

Then again, given political realities, it's probably easier to tell people how to "safely" raise their children than to try to do anything proactive to make anyone actually live longer. "Proactive" sounds too much like "progressive" for some of the political leaders in Alaska's largest city, and liberal politicians have managed to make a dirty word out of progressive by claiming they are even if they're not.

Craig Medred's opinions are his own. Contact Craig Medred at craig@alaskadispatch.com