November 18, 2014

Creating A Culture of Activity Blog

In This Post:

  • I would walk 500 miles 
  • An office in Austin?!

You know, I think I’ll just go for a walk…

I’m often asked “how much activity is the ideal amount?”

To begin with, that’s a complicated question because there is no single right answer.

However I can say that we all need to and would benefit from less time sitting and more miles walking. Let’s turn to some 80‘s music for inspiration. Maybe the Scottish band the Proclaimers were onto something with their 1988 hit “I’m Gonna Be” (I would walk 500 miles) and as the riff continues ‘and 500 more’… of course, we don’t really want to necessarily ‘collapse at anyone’s door’. Hum along to the march that is the chorus.


But I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at your door


So what about that? You know… walking say, an extra 500, 1,000 or heck even 1,500 miles each year.

Is it doable? ‘H-E double hockey sticks’ yeah it is!

Let’s do some simple arithmetic: 500 miles / 365 days is just 1.37 miles per day. Sweet! We can all pretty much do that!

1,000 miles per year would equal 2.74 miles per day.

Cool! We’re on a roll. Why stop there? If we take it to 1,500 miles we are looking at 4.10 miles per day.

Hey, this is most definitely in, as the saying goes, our “wheel-house”!

Humans used to have an estimated daily range of about 10-30 kilometers (6.2 to 18.6 miles), of course we were probably jogging, trotting and walking off and on, throughout the day, to comfortably hit the higher ranges of these distances. Believe it or not, the ability of our bodies to handle this level of activity has not substantially changed in the past couple thousand years. So seriously, we’ve got this!

Okay, so if an extra 1.5 to 4 miles per day is well within our range as a species, why walk it?

It’s easy to do, requires virtually no planning or equipment to accomplish and it’s well known and scientifically established that walking is good for us. So, to barrow Nike’s ageless tagline: Just Do It!

Personally, I like walking for natural activity, as I delight in the idea of getting in an extra 1,500 peripatetic miles per year, above and beyond whatever else I might be doing as formal exercise for health and fitness.

Did you notice that I just used THAT word? Yeah… The “E” word. E-X-E-R-C-I-S-E.

I am making the distinction that these miles, hopefully 1,500 or so per year are not part of a formal exercise routine. This is about natural activity folks.

I’m looking to find/create those mysterious and elusive invisible miles of natural movement for utilitarian and functional purposes. It’s not a workout, it’s a purposeful stroll, saunter or walkabout. The goal is not to work up a sweat per se, but to get stuff done, go about my daily life and get to a variety of meaningful places using my two feet. In other words, leave the car behind whenever possible and stretch those legs.

Oh, and by the way, this does not all have to happen all at once. A portion could be part of your morning and afternoon commute, some could be traveling to and from a restaurant for your lunch and as was mentioned above, taking care of some errands. Step by step, it all adds up.


Speaking of steps, that might be the best way for you to keep track of your daily progress. There are a wide range of pedometers, smart phone apps and other biometric gadgets now on the market to specifically monitor the number of steps you take each day. A widely used and validated daily target for step count is 10,000.

So how does this compare to our target 1,000 to 1,500 miles per year or approximately 2.75 to 4.0 miles per day? The average number of steps per mile based on stride length is 2,000 to 2,500, so we’re looking at 5,500 to 6,875 steps for 2.75 miles per day and about 8,000 to 10,000 steps for 4 miles per day. BINGO!

So why go through this activity? <pardon the pun>

Well two things in addition to answering the How Much question: 1.) I travel a lot as I search around the country for Active Towns and that song frequently pops into my mind when I am on the road, hmmm… perhaps the ’80’s or in particular the Proclaimers are haunting me; but seriously the main reason 2.) is that when we make our cities and towns safe, welcoming and inviting… hello! enjoyable for people to get around by foot and yes, also by bike (more on bikes later), we enable residents and visitor alike to rack up more natural activity miles per day in small incremental, manageable bites. This results in a healthier, higher quality of life.

And you have probably guessed it already, the most Active Towns we have found around the country thus far, do a much better job in this regard than most U.S. cities.

The call to action… Each and every one of us can help our cities by ‘being the change’. Take every opportunity to get moving, especially in a conspicuous manner so others will see your smile (don’t forget to smile) and will want to join in on the fun. Humans just hate to be missing out on the fun stuff. In other words, model the desired behavior for all to see and in doing so, you’ll better connect with your community and enhance your own health in the process.

If your environment is simply not conducive to even stepping out the front door then then find a place where you can get your ‘walk on’ and by all means if you care a lick about your city, then speak up to demand change AND recruit a bunch of family, friends and colleagues to join in on the chorus* so y’all can walk that 500, 1,000, heck 1,500 miles too.

*Joining In On The Chorus: Please make a donation to the Active Towns Initiative, have us come speak to your city leaders and we also encourage you to consider becoming a member of Strong Towns at a non-profit with which we work closely.

Active Towns Opens An Austin Office and Tour Updates

Yep, it has been a wild and crazy year here at Active Towns – it’s all good!

Perhaps the biggest, most exciting update for the Active Towns Initiative is that we have opened an office in Austin, TX, which not coincidentally, has been one of our most frequently recommended superstar Established Active Towns in the past couple years.

Boulder, CO, our true home, will remain our model Active Town and our official headquarters location.

We look forward to sharing more about the vibrant Culture of Activity here in Austin in the near future.


Now, onto the Active Towns Tour Update:

First and foremost: A huge Thank You goes out to y’all for following along here at the Active Towns Initiative!

Also a special thanks to the many people who have stepped up to make a donation, provide logistical assistance and host us during the Active Towns Tour, as well as give much needed advice and guidance to the Initiative as we fine tune our business plan and suite of services.

Initiative Highlights:

Over 100 cities, in 23 states visited to date

Attended/Presented at 9 international conferences in the last 12 months

Community Engagement: 5 cities

Social Media: dozens of posts and nearly 500 followers of our Facebook page and a fledgling but growing Twitter presence

Coming Up Next…

Our next Creating A Culture of Activity Blog Post will summarize in more detail the Initiative to date, the 2014 Tour as well as some Key Learnings and Exciting Developments as we head into 2015

Get Involved

Please feel free to share your comments and/or suggestions for emerging and established Active Towns on our website, Facebook page or by email to: Also, let us know if you can help facilitate Tour Stop and site visit in your city.

As always, we welcome any and all assistance, so if you’d like to help us directly in our efforts to facilitate healthier communities, please consider making a tax deductible donation. Click here to donate.

Thank you for helping create and support Active Towns everywhere! 

John D Simmerman, MS

johns signature blue
Co-Founder, President & CEO
Advocates for Healthy Communities, Inc.
Actives Towns Initiative