Thursday, November 7, 2013

Guest Opinion: Traffic-free downtown Fort Myers open Sunday for personal fitness

Kate Gooderham (President of Streets Alive, Inc. and BWL steering group member)'s commentary in today's News-Press tells us why Streets Alive is a win-win situation for everyone in the community.  BWL is a proud supporter of this event and has been busy planning lots of fun activities for Sunday.  See you there!

News-Press commentary, Nov. 7, 2013

Kate Gooderham
Written by Kate Gooderham

Most of us are happy with a win-win situation.

What if we could have a win-win many times fold — and have fun to boot!
That is the goal of Streets Alive of Lee County and its inaugural event from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sunday, when the streets of downtown Fort Myers will open for people to play, traffic-free and cost-free. This family-friendly event will provide a safe place for people to walk, bike, play, skate, move and just have fun.

This is a win for Lee County residents, employers, downtown businesses, the city of Fort Myers, health care providers, Healthy Lee Coalition and the Horizon Council.

The genesis of this event was the Healthy Lee Coalition’s response to a county’s health crisis, which sprang from a lack of community culture to get up and move.

The statistics are depressing. Obesity and its diseases are on the rise, insurance costs have been escalating and businesses face hidden costs due to employee health issues. According to Jim Nathan of Lee Memorial Health System, 75 percent of medical spending is for five chronic conditions: diabetes, congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, asthma and depression — all conditions alleviated by physical activity.

Consider these facts:
• 65 percent of Lee County’s population doesn’t get the recommended amount of moderate physical activity.
• 75 percent of us do not eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
• It is no surprise that 40 percent of us are diagnosed with high cholesterol, 35 percent with hypertension and 12 percent with diabetes (that doesn’t include the undiagnosed).
• Nationwide, one out of three children is overweight or obese.
• Obesity-related illnesses cost us nearly $200 billion nationally and consume 21 percent of annual medical spending.
• U.S. businesses lose nearly $4.5 billion in obesity-related absenteeism.

We also know few of us will do something consistently unless it’s fun. That’s where Streets Alive comes in.

Streets Alive will offer a buffet of activities focused around movement. We know that activity breeds more activity as people discover the joy of play. Through this, we hope the bandwagon effect will create a community culture of movement that will improve both physical and mental health.
In addition, Streets Alive will provide nutritional advice to make healthier food choices. It will reinforce workplace health messages. We provide something for everyone to do, regardless of their fitness or ability. And it is free.

Businesses need to encourage their employees to participate because healthy employees and healthy communities save businesses money. And, as we encourage new companies and residents to move to our area, we have to remember that new and younger residents expect community-building activities.

Finally, downtown businesses prosper because, at walking and bicycling speed, people can actually see the businesses there. Nationally, more than two-thirds of past participants of similar events became aware of a store or restaurant that was new to them, and almost three-quarters of them spent money at a store or restaurant on the route. Our route includes the downtown business district as well as activity villages for activity sampling ranging from blowing bubbles to paddle boarding to dance to fitness.

We want to thank the Florida Department of Health in Lee County, the Horizon Council, the YMCA, Lee Memorial Health Systems and a strong and long list of supporters for making this first-time event possible. For more information, go to; follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook. Join us for our kickoff Sunday morning at 9 a.m. at Fort Myers City Hall.

Kate Gooderham is president of Streets Alive of Lee County Inc.

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