8th January 2014

Sharing the passion for an active life

Viv Alexander
In the guest post below, Gwenda Owen, a member of our GeoVation  judging panel for the latest GeoVation Challenge, who has worked for various organisations promoting outdoor activity  explains her passion to encourage active lifestyles in Britain.

So why do so many of us struggle to lead a lifestyle that’s active enough for our health and well being?  The 6 themes and associated insights identified in the Powwow show that the reasons are many and varied and as such invite solutions to match.

Living without a car and working across Wales means that, for me, an active lifestyle is often a necessity but it is a lifestyle that I’ve chosen.   I need to be outdoors; to be getting places under my own steam, earning the views by cycling up that 1 in 4, scrabbling up a scree slope or just walking to work the long way through the parks of Cardiff.  It makes me feel alive, helps keep things in perspective and I have my parents to thank.

Photo of Gwenda with group of children on cycling scheme

Gwenda Owen (centre) with group of children on Bikeability scheme.

Whilst I often protested, as teenagers are wont to do:  I also liked to tell people we’d ridden the mountain road to Aberystwyth some 40 miles away to see our cousins at the weekend or cycle camped to Amsterdam in our summer holidays, to tell the stories behind the well-earned scars.

My childhood equipped me with the skills and helped me develop the confidence to get out there and explore.   I feel pretty lucky as I know how good it feels to be outdoors,  I’ve faith in my strength, I know where I can go, have the confidence to go out there on my own and know how to find people to go with if I want company. But I recognise, and surveys and statistics show, that I’m in a minority: in the UK many people aren’t getting active often enough. The reasons are complex but the outcomes can be devastating in terms of both physical and mental health.

For the last six years I’ve been fortunate to be working directly to help enable others to experience some of what outdoor activity can offer.  I currently work for Ramblers Cymru as Community Engagement Officer and was first introduced to GeoVation when supporting the Challenge to get more people using the newly created Wales Coast Path.

Prior to that I worked for CTC, the national cycling charity, where I helped introduce Bikeability to Wales. My experience of working for an organisation as passionate about cycling as I am has meant that 2014 will see me working for them again, this time in a voluntary capacity as a trustee and Councillor for Wales.  The positive difference cycling can make to individuals and communities is something I’m keen to see made available to all.

I’m delighted to have been asked to be part of this latest GeoVation Challenge and hope that some of my experiences and enthusiasm for the outdoors will help identify the solutions that can make a real impact and enable people to enjoy open spaces as they are meant to be.

If you  have an idea to encourage active lifestyles,  take a look at some of the problems we identified and  enter the GeoVation Challenge online. As with previous GeoVation Challenges we are looking for great ideas which address the problems using geography, technology and good design. The challenge runs to 12 noon on 15 January 2014 and Ordnance Survey will be offering a slice of £100,000 to help develop ventures that make best use of our data, including OS OpenData and OS OpenSpace, together with other open data to solve problems.