As part of our Active by Design campaign we asked Ann Gates founder of Exercise Works! to explain why designing for activity is so important for designers, architects and planners to consider.

I’m passionate about the health benefits of exercise for patient care and public health. Today there is an amazing opportunity for doctors and designers to work together and make a dramatic impact on global health.

How much more effective would health policies be if environments, transport, buildings, products and spaces were designed, intuitively, by doctors and designers, to keep our bodies active and our minds sharp?

Sedentary living has become the norm, we’ve created environments where we are expected to sit and stare. Active transport, active environments and active spaces could make our lives healthier and more playful.

Instead we face an epidemic of inactivity, the world’s fourth biggest killer. This killer has an accomplice known as ‘sitting disease’, present in our cities, offices, living rooms, and public spaces.

So why, when we understand the health consequences of inactivity and sitting, do we see inaction by the very professionals that are able to make a difference? 

Fortunately there is a fantastic, side-effect free, natural medicine to this disease: it’s called exercise. This medicine adds years to life (and life to your years). Yet only a few people make use of it, despite the fact that it can involve exploring some of the world’s stunning places of natural beauty.

This medicine hasn’t been designed to be an app, a computer game or social network – and it’s not a key part of the lifestyles we’ve currently chosen for ourselves.

Exercise comes in an attractive array of options, but the best and most effective method is building into daily lives – and where designers come in.

Sedentary living has become the norm, we’ve created environments where we are expected to sit and stare. Active transport, active environments and active spaces could make our lives healthier and more playful, simply by increasing the opportunities for regular exercise for both adults and children. 

So why can’t doctors, health professionals and designers collaborate? My office door is always open to anyone – professionals or patients – that see health, wellbeing and exercise as parts of the same system.

About the Author

Ann Gates is the Founder of Exercise Works! and a member of the World Heart Federation, Emerging Leaders Programme 2014.

Active by Design

Design can help get people moving and living better, healthier lives.

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Feature — 24/03/2014

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