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Three ways local government can reduce barriers to exercise, post pandemic

As our streets become more congested, and our commutes become longer, you might have found exercising harder and harder. You are not alone. More than half of us, in every age group, are ‘inactive’. This costs governments billions of dollars in trying to get us to exercise, and in health costs when we don’t.

The main barriers to exercising are a lack of time, cost and embarrassment. The covid19 pandemic has demonstrated three ways local governments could remove these barriers to get us all on the move.


In the first days of the shutdown, the Mitchell Leisure Centre began streaming free exercise classes live on Facebook. They take people through 30-minute routines with two instructors demonstrating modifications for different levels of fitness. They are fun (live makes a HUGE difference!) and there is no travel time, no cost, and no one to see you (scream) let loose! Each video has been getting between 500 and 1500 views - impressive for an area of only 44 000 people.

What if local government’s worked together to invest in high quality exercise, beamed into our homes free, for those who are time poor, unable to commute, or too embarrassed to turn up to a gym?


As people went into lockdown, the City of Oakland in California, announced it would close 74 miles of streets to through-traffic so that bicyclists and pedestrians could spread out safely and exercise. The Mayor said they were “taking this opportunity to try some new things … we hope these “Slow Streets” … give joy, recreation, exercise to families throughout the city”. Local governments in Berlin, added “pop up” bike lanes to their streets so cyclists could keep 1.5m from pedestrians and other cyclists. One hundred and thirty-three other German cities have submitted formal applications for similar bike-lane expansions.

What if local governments in Australia seized this opportunity to change the norm and restructure roadways for better daily-walking and cycling? Getting out of our cars is one of our biggest challenges to address climate change, but now we have proof of the benefits.


Finally, local government’s can develop libraries to assist people to continue to “work-from-home” a day or two a week (good for us, the environment and our local economies!).

The State library has set up StartSpace: a free coworking space that offers desks, wifi, whiteboards, workshop spaces, as well as programs (training, workshops, mentoring and networking events). The South Gippsland Shire has also opened the Foster library 24 hours, offering members a key pass to the facilities after staffed hours (just like 24 hour gyms). The first to take up the option were business people, distance workers, teachers and students, looking for a place to work with reliable free WiFi.

What if local government provided us with more high quality (ergonomically and technologically), free options for working locally, giving us back some of our commute time, and allowing to bike or walk to work somedays?

Lock down has shown how the way we currently work impacts on our health (and the environment). The pandemic is showing us, it doesn’t have to be that way. And smart local governments are having great ideas to get us moving – in lockdown – and hopefully beyond.

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