In late November 2014, my travels took me to the Netherlands to speak at the Annual Meeting of the Dutch Sports Medicine Association, held in the town of Ermelo. This was a wonderful meeting and a chance to see old friends and promote the idea that exercise is medicine and the importance of walking to good health. I began my visit with a stay in the capital city of Amsterdam, which I found to be among the most beautiful and interesting cities I have ever been to. From its beautiful canals, world famous museums and historical sights, it is definitely one of the world’s great cities. The most fascinating thing about Amsterdam is its diversity and tolerance, with the overarching theme being you can do pretty much what you want as long as you don’t bother anyone else. But my favorite thing about Amsterdam is how walkable and active it is. The city is so easy to get around, whether by train, bus, bike or foot. But the most popular mode of transportation by far is the bicycle. Because the city is really very small and flat and equipped with great bike lanes, you can get almost anywhere quickly on a bike.
The Dutch Sports Medicine Meeting was held in Ermelo, which is a small town about one hour’s drive east of Amsterdam. I gave 2 talks at the meeting about the importance of exercise to health and suggested that all physicians in the Netherlands should begin using an exercise vital sign to help assess and prescribe exercise to their patients. There was tremendous support and interest in this idea because even though Amsterdam is a very active city, much of the rest of the Netherlands tends to be more sedentary.
During my visit I got to spend time with my friends Dr. Babette Pluim and Dr. Willem van Mechelen, who both live in the Netherlands. Babette is a sports medicine physician and Deputy Editor-in-chief of the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM). While I was there, she interviewed me for a BJSM podcast you can listen to at (https://soundcloud.com/bmjpodcasts/bob-sallis-on-exercise-as-medicine). Willem is also a sports medicine physician and chair of the Department of Public and Occupational Health at the VU University of Medicine in Amsterdam and he has been a great supporter of Exercise is Medicine in Europe. During my trip I visited the University and gave a talk to his department. Following my talks, Babette was kind enough to show me some of the many great sights in the Netherlands, including the Ann Frank House and the Rijksmuseum (Netherlands national museum dedicated to arts and history) in Amsterdam and the museum and cemetery in Arnhem, site of the famous World War II battle chronicled in the movie “A Bridge Too Far”.
My visit to the Netherlands was one of the most active and fun trips I have done, with lots of walking and exploring every day. On my last day I went on a city tour with Mike’s Bike Tours in Amsterdam and had a great time. The bike is a great way to see the city and I would highly recommend this tour.
Thank you so much for reading my blog and being an advocate for walking. Keep on walking my friends!