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Walking Into Trouble: Planning and Physical Un-Fitness

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photo of barefoot young woman walking through fieldGone barefoot lately? Every planner owns a vested interest in the question, and especially in the answer.

Walking barefoot means more than heeding the fading echoes of a long-ago Broadway musical, or aping romantic-evening advertisements for Caribbean beach resorts. It means intimate contact with ordinary landscape, even intimate contact with the wilderness of mountain meadows or sandy beaches. And it means something disappearing from contemporary American life.

Direct physical contact with physical environments decreases yearly, and erodes entire sections of the unseen, taken-for-granted foundations of planning. Behind arguments concerning subdivision guidelines, downtown revitalization, ecological imperatives and other important issues snuffles something equally important but often offensive, certainly distasteful, always unnerving to scholar and planner alike. An age wary of unjust discrimination and unthinking offensiveness, deals hesitantly with the question of physicality, and often prefers to ignore it altogether. ...

Even the Centers for Disease Control, a federal institution increasingly worried about the inactivity and obesity of the American public, and especially the young public, has sounded the alarm. Heart disease is now a pediatric disease, and practicing physicians discover every day that more and more patients -- children included -- get no daily exercise. Sitting in front of video screens at work and at home produces overweight people headed for significant medical trouble, as the President's Council now warns in its press releases. Back problems, respiratory problems, leg problems, all such derive in large part from a lack of exercise undreamed of in the 1960s. ...

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