U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has initiated a “Step It Up” campaign meant to promote walking and walkable communities, in an effort to encourage Americans to exercise more.
The campaign is carried out in collaboration with the American College of Sports Medicine, whose representatives have recently declared that walking is the easiest and most affordable way for including more physical activity into a busy schedule.
According to the official, an average of 22 minutes of daily physical activity can be highly effective in preventing the onset of major health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.
“The key is to get started because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation”, declared Murthy.
Although it may seem easy to engage in such a low-effort activity like walking, in fact there are obstacles discouraging people from these healthy behaviors.
For instance, according to a 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, 30% of all Americans have drawn attention to the fact that there are no walkable areas along the streets of their neighborhood. This reality is illustrated by the fact that since 2003 around 50,000 pedestrians have been killed in traffic incidents.
In addition, other Americans fear for their lives and only choose to travel by car or by bus, due to rampant street violence.
In light of these findings, the Surgeon General has issued a call to action, meant to convince community planners and local authorities to invest more, provide the necessary infrastructure and promote walking as a safe and viable type of exercise.
Based on his recommendations, more areas should be designed for pedestrians and wheelchair users, and there should also be more sidewalks, crosswalks, curb cuts, green spaces and crossings for the visually impaired.
Such measures should be enacted due to the fact that more than half of all adult Americans lead sedentary lives, and even more worryingly, just a quarter of high school kids engage in the recommended amount of daily physical activity. Similarly, 50% of all disabled citizens don’t exercise enough because not all communities have wheelchair-accessible areas.
Overall, physical inactivity puts people at risk of developing a variety of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and pulmonary disorders. For instance, according to the National Institute of Health, around two-thirds of all U.S. citizens are overweight, and 5% of the population is morbidly obese. Moreover, preventable chronic disorders are the cause of death for 7 out of 10 Americans.
On the other hand, walking has been proven to regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and it has also been linked to stronger bones, better memory and psychological benefits, such as keeping negative thoughts at bay.
Image Source: Pexels