Some people are healthier than others because the environments in which they live, learn, work and play provide more opportunities and supports for healthy behaviour. A healthy environment begins with clean, safe water, air and land – we are fortunate that there is little pollution and few contaminants in the Yukon. Our ability to interact with nature on a daily basis gives us a clear advantage over most other Canadians. The natural environment and our connections to the land, water, animals and plants are a fundamental component of building and sustaining good health.
In the past, people travelled by foot, and survived by hunting, gathering and growing their own food. Our ancestors were close to the land and experienced the many benefits of nature. Physical activity was not exercise – it was part of daily life.
Today, we must pay attention to how buildings, roads and walkways, and public spaces are designed so that neighbourhoods are safe and people can be active. Communities that are spread out – like Whitehorse is – make us more reliant on cars to get around. It’s easy to see how being physically active becomes “working out” rather than part of regular daily activities.
Stores that stock healthy foods and restaurants that serve healthy foods at affordable prices are also examples of physical environments which make healthy choices possible and easier.
When it comes to activity and eating, even small changes in the immediate environment can make a difference in what we do. Safe, visible stairwells make it easier to take the stairs rather than the elevator, and labeling healthier choices at restaurants can prompt us to order a salad instead of French fries.