Arlington Bike Commuter Works To Keep People & Parks Healthy
It’s no secret that Arlington has thousands of bike commuters, and thousands of Arlingtonians have interesting jobs. And we love it when we find those two traits combined in one person. So meet Capt. Sara Newman, a 51-year-old mother of three, but also an officer in the U.S. Public Health Service and Director of Public Health for the National Park Service.
“I love biking to work and that Arlington is bike-friendly enough to allow it,” she said.
In her job, Newman leads a team of public health officers in NPS’ efforts at “Protection, Prevention and Promotion.” This means everything from making sure humans and animals don’t transmit disease to each other, to managing and inspecting thousands of drinking water and food service systems across the nation. She also oversees the National Park Rx initiative, which advances the use of parks and public lands to improve the health and wellness among individuals and communities.
Biking is a big part of Park Rx, and in comments at a recent dedication of the Capital Trails Coalition which promotes the building of a connected multi-use trail network in the regions, she noted the U.S. faces a health crisis that could be alleviated by more activity in our parks. Obesity, diabetes, ADHD, stress, and depression are just some of the increasingly prevalent diseases that are reduced through physical activities. Put simply, the program helps healthcare providers encourage and inspire patients to go be active in public parks.
“Parks and public lands are free or low-cost resources in many communities that can provide an excellent antidote to this,” she said, adding that “physical activity in natural environments has been shown to be more beneficial on mental well-being and overall health than indoor physical activity.”
But before selling the elixir of park activity each day, Newman uses her commute to get a dose of her own medicine. Most days, she picks up a Capital Bikeshare bike at Washington Boulevard and 10th St. for a roughly 5-mile commute downtown. Admittedly a fare-weather bike commuter, she said her husband is much more hard-core, riding year round regardless of the weather.
On a recent commute on a brisk morning, Newman added that she loves bike commuting this time of year. “I don’t get sweaty so I can go in and change right into my uniform,” she said, “and I always feel much better when I bike to work.” Sounds like just what the doctor ordered.