It’s a little known fact that people living in Australia’s Capital Territory are a lot more active than other Australians.
It’s an interesting phenomenon, noticed most recently by fellow blogger – CBR bound, and which is backed up by a solid statistic: the latest Australian Bureau of Statistic’s survey on participation in sports and recreation shows that nearly three quarters of people aged 15 years and over in the ACT participated in some kind of physical activity in 2013-14, a higher percentage of people than in other states and territories.
Having once worked on this survey (I’m a former officer of the ABS – something I don’t admit to very often) and not living in the ACT, I can tell you that this result did puzzle us statisticians. Could it be the younger age demographic? Better facilities? The Australian Institute of Sport? More disposable income? We never came up with a good answer and it was beyond our remit, as the strictly un-biased publishers of national survey results, to speculate too much on the whys and wherefores.
Now that some years have passed and I have moved on from crunching numbers and established myself as a resident of the ACT, this statistic no longer puzzles me. I am now at liberty to speculate on why it is so, and attempt to offer some more insight into what it is about Canberra that has made me, if not everybody else here, more active.
It’s just so beautiful.
People bag Canberra all the time, usually people who’ve never been here, or who’ve been here only once or twice, probably for work or school trips.
I was one of them, yet I still decided to move here and was (luckily) pleasantly surprised by what a great place it is to live. The thing is, it’s just a beautiful city, due to the fact that it has a lot of parks, lakes and natural bushland. They’re not on its edges and not just a short drive away, but embedded in the city and its surrounds. I’d say, based purely on the fact that it’s true for me, that this goes a long way towards people being more active – there’s just so many nice places to go and do it in.
It’s a social thing.
I’d never heard of ‘running groups’ before I came to Canberra, but before I’d even left, the property manager we engaged to look after our little house while we were away was telling us about her daughter who moved to Canberra, joined a running group and was having the time of her life.
I thought it was odd, because to me the point of running was that you could do it on your own (as opposed to tennis, for example, where you generally need at least one other willing participant). Three years later, I’m in a running group. For ladies. And I love it. Since joining I have run more often, further and faster than I ever would have by myself. And I’ve met an amazing group of FIT girls whose company is just about the only motivation I need to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning and put on my running shoes (not to mention, going out for breakfast afterwards). On any given morning in Canberra, you’ll be lucky to get a park around the Lake, as the area is teeming with fitness groups: running, cycling, yoga and boot camps to name just a few.
We’re all public servants.
Well, technically not all of us, but a lot of us. In a city populated mainly by people who are chained to a desk all day, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that you’re all going to be in trouble down the track if you don’t get up and move about. This kind of collective consciousness is not one that I was aware of in previous jobs and organisations, and whether it’s inherent in the nature of the ‘pube’ (as we’re affectionately known) to be a follower. What I’ve noticed is that the naturally active ones in the workplace take the lead, and the rest of us gradually fall into line – riding to work in the morning, taking a walk at lunchtime or going to worship at the church of cross fit after the day is done.
Canberra has cool mornings just about all year ’round making it easy to keep exercising whatever the season.
Truth be known, I’m not really a morning person and I’m still trying to convince myself of this one. I can tell you there’s nothing easy about getting out of bed at 6am, in the dark, when you know it’s minus 6 outside. But, I can also tell you that, wow, once you’re out there, it’s incredible. The air is crisp and clear, the mist sits on the lake and in the trees and it seems like the sun is rising just for you. Luckily, this feeling becomes a little addictive, so throughout the cold Winter months, it’s possible to keep moving, albeit while wearing a lot more layers. And in Summer, if you stick to your early morning routine, the warmest you’ll probably have to deal with is a (rare) 18 degrees. We’ll brush over the fact that when you’ve got used to below zero, 18 feels more like 30.
If you’ve started the year by setting a seemingly impossible fitness goal like me (hello half marathon) then good luck and remember, focus on how good you’ll feel after you’ve done whatever it is you set out to do, not on how bad it feels (i.e having to get out of bed) right now. It works for me, most of the time…