FEA­TURED

Indonesia Expat - - Featured - BY ERIN COOK

Hit the Streets and Get Walk­ing, Jakarta

Few were shocked back in July when a global study found In­done­sia to be the coun­try which walks the least. From shoddy side­walks with gap­ing holes, im­pa­tient mo­tor­cy­clists rid­ing up the side of the roads and the sti­fling hu­mid­ity, Jakarta can’t be called a city made for pedes­tri­ans. Ur­ban sprawl and long com­mutes hardly help, with many Jakar­tans forced to spend hours a day in cars, buses or mo­tor­cy­cles in an ef­fort get from work to home.

But with much of the world al­ready ex­pe­ri­enc­ing rapid de­clines in health as life­styles be­come more seden­tary, the re­sults are alarm­ing for any ex­pat who plans to spend part of their lives in In­done­sia.

The study, con­ducted by Stan­ford Univer­sity in the US, tracked the walk­ing habits of al­most 718,000 peo­ple across 111 coun­tries via smart­phones in an ef­fort to bet­ter un­der­stand the im­pact walk­ing has on over­all health out­comes. Par­tic­i­pants were mon­i­tored for 95 days each.

In­done­sia came last in the 46 coun­try rank­ing of those with over 1,000 par­tic­i­pants with just 3,513 steps on av­er­age per day. This is well be­hind top rank­ing Hong Kong on 6,880 steps and China at 6,189. Sin­ga­pore rates 5,674 steps on av­er­age a day.

Why does In­done­sia rank so low?

A break­down of data from within In­done­sia is not yet avail­able on­line, but the rea­sons for the re­sults in ma­jor cities like Jakarta ap­pear self- ev­i­dent. Re­searchers cited a city's ‘walk­a­bil­ity,’ a sus­tain­abil­ity con­cept which takes into ac­count the in­fra­struc­ture and en­vi­ron­ment in a neigh­bour­hood or com­mu­nity, as a ma­jor fac­tor in pre­dict­ing how much par­tic­i­pants walked.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, Jakarta ranks low. Walk­a­bil­ity mea­sures fac­tors like ac­cess to green spa­ces, build­ing den­sity and trans­port con­nec­tiv­ity – all fac­tors in which Jakarta has made ef­forts to im­prove but is still lack­ing.

“In more walk­a­ble cities, ac­tiv­ity is greater through­out the day and through­out the week, across age, gen­der and body mass in­dex (BMI) groups, with the great­est in­creases in ac­tiv­ity for fe­males,” the sur­vey said.

How ben­e­fi­cial is walk­ing?

The ben­e­fits of walk­ing are well doc­u­mented – both for phys­i­cal and men­tal health.

“Reg­u­lar brisk walk­ing can help you main­tain a healthy weight, pre­vent or man­age var­i­ous con­di­tions, in­clud­ing heart dis­ease, high blood pres­sure and type 2 di­a­betes, strengthen your bones and mus­cles, im­prove your mood, bal­ance and co­or­di­na­tion,” the Mayo Clinic says. “The faster, farther and more fre­quently you walk, the greater the ben­e­fits.”

The Mayo Clinic notes the US Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices guide­lines, which rec­om­mend 150 minutes of mod­er­ate aer­o­bic ac­tiv­ity, 75 minutes of vig­or­ous aer­o­bic ac­tiv­ity or a com­bi­na­tion of both each week. Strength train­ing of all the ma­jor mus­cle groups is also rec­om­mended twice a week at a min­i­mum.

Each adult should aim for a min­i­mum 30 minutes of ac­tiv­ity a day, which can be split into ten or 15 minute ses­sions, the Mayo Clinic says.

While brisk walk­ing helps in weight loss, it also has a mul­ti­tude of men­tal health ben­e­fits. A study from Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity found that the more a per­son walked each day the bet­ter their mood. This is be­cause ex­er­cise, even low im­pact ex­er­cise like walk­ing, re­leases en­dor­phins – painkilling hor­mones.

Ad­di­tion­ally, reg­u­lar ex­er­cise is be­lieved to slow down the age­ing process and keep peo­ple alert and high­func­tion­ing well into old age.

What can be done to im­prove walk­a­bil­ity in In­done­sia’s cities?

Jakarta’s in­fra­struc­ture woes are a long-run­ning story here in In­done­sia, but ef­forts are be­ing un­der­taken to im­prove ac­ces­si­bil­ity. While these ef­forts tend to fo­cus on pub­lic trans­port one civil group is act­ing in the in­ter­ests of pedes­tri­ans.

Al­fred Si­torus, the Chair­man of the Jakarta Pedes­trian Coali­tion, spoke to the New York Times in Au­gust about the group’s ac­tions to keep the walk­ways for pedes­tri­ans only.

But for now?

“As kids, we learn in school that side­walks are for pedes­tri­ans, but as adults we think it’s okay,” Si­torus said about mo­tor­cy­cles us­ing side­walks.

The group of­ten stages protests on Jakarta’s more busy streets hold­ing signs and form­ing chains to block mo­tor­cy­cles from us­ing the side­walks. These ef­forts are of­ten met with abuse from mo­torists, he said.

Many of Jakarta’s hid­den de­lights can be found deep in neigh­bour­hoods and sub­urbs that can only be found with a lit­tle ex­plor­ing. A Satur­day spent ex­plor­ing Glodok, Jakarta’s old Chi­nese- In­done­sian neigh­bour­hood, or the streets off Kota Tua, or the Old Town, will give even the slow­est of walk­ers an in­crease in their weekly steps av­er­age.

Early ris­ers can join in on Jakarta’s worst kept se­cret – the fun Sun­day morn­ing Car Free Day trek from Se­nayan to the Ho­tel In­done­sia Round­about, or even up to Monas, the Na­tional Mon­u­ment, for those ex­cited to see the pe­dome­ter tick over.

Spend an af­ter­noon check­ing out the newly re­fur­bished Kal­i­jodo area in West Jakarta. Once one of the city’s most no­to­ri­ous red light dis­tricts, it now boasts a skate park and plenty of open space. En­joyed by chil­dren and teenagers each week­end, a day spent at Kal­i­jodo is an easy way to get your steps up while soak­ing up the fes­ti­val-like at­mos­phere.

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