One thing I’ve noticed is that more and more people are out being active since mid-March when COVID-19 impacted our cities and state.

Nick Jezierny is the communications specialist for the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health.

Whether it’s walking, running, cycling, hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, surfing, fishing, geocaching, people are enjoying the outdoors and getting exercise.

It’s not just here in the Treasure Valley on the greenbelts or the popular foothills trails. While on my bike or out walking my dog exploring different parts of Boise and Garden City, I see people walking in their neighborhoods. Our team at the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health hears the same thing from our partners in different parts of the state — people are outside and moving.

That’s exciting and good news for Idaho. Physical activity, whether it’s walking, running, cycling, etc., is good for physical and mental health. Let’s face it; nothing beats getting out of your home office to get some fresh air and exercise.

A family activity

It hasn’t been uncommon to see families walking together. Parents are setting an example to their kids that walking is fun and good for you. Maybe this will lead to more children walking to and from school when campuses eventually reopen?

That would be a big win. But it’s also a big if.

Parents have to feel walking to schools is safe. Are there sidewalks, crosswalks, and routes that keep kids away from cars? Are speed limits on neighborhood streets low? Crossing guards? All of these make walking to school — or any destination — safer.

When parents walk with children, it sets an excellent example of the importance of being active.

Neighborhoods and cities should take advantage of this momentum created by people enjoying the outdoors to make changes that encourage physical activity. Summer is a time when many roads are repaved or painted – maybe now is the time to add a bike lane or pedestrian lane if there are no sidewalks on the street?

This pandemic shines a light on the importance of infrastructure to promote physical activity and ensuring that everyone has access to places and destinations that help us be active. Some people would walk to a park or trail, but there may not be a pedestrian-friendly way to access it.

Strike while the iron is hot

There is no better time to start working on pedestrian-friendly routes to popular destinations that will encourage people to be active in their daily lives, even after this pandemic ends. Our partner Mark Fenton, a national public health expert, offers sound ideas about the benefits of being pedestrian-friendly to communities.

The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health has been promoting this thinking for several years through two programs — the Mayor’s Walking Challenge and Steps for Schools. These programs encourage our elected officials to be active and think about ways they can promote and advocate for walking and physical activity in their communities and districts.

Sometimes it takes a crisis like COVID-19 to reconnect or rediscover the joys of being outside and moving. Many of the people I see aren’t the ones I’ve seen out walking before COVID-19 took us away from our workplaces, social gatherings and made us stay home.

When this pandemic ends — whenever that might be — let’s hope one positive that is people continue to be active and that our communities become safer places for all of us to walk, run, ride and skate.