Taking regular walks can be a powerful and simple way to improve your health. Walking reduces your risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and osteoporosis, all while improving your overall sense of well-being.
The effectiveness of walking for health was vividly demonstrated by a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. For four years, the team monitored the weight of 822 adults, as well as how they got to and from work. At the end of the study period, the researchers found that the subjects who used a car, train, or bus for their daily commute gained an average of one pound per year. What's most surprising, though, is that the participants who took public transit and still got the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise each week gained more weight than those who didn't exercise regularly.
This study shows that, even if you are physically active, a sedentary lifestyle contributes to weight gain. Granted, that gain was slow and gradual, but every pound counts — literally. In light of this, many people are trying to spend more time walking or biking instead of more passive forms of transportation. What are cities doing to make this easier?
The Top 3 Walkable Cities
For the past several years, city planners and land-use experts have been looking at the "walkability" of their cities. Under the guidance of urban planners, environmental, and technical experts, numerous cities around the world have been given a helpful "walk score." According to the 2015 rankings, New York City, San Francisco, and Boston (in that order) are the top three most walkable cities in the country.
Because its so much more cost-effective and healthy for people to walk, many cities around the country are making an effort to increase their walkability. This involves providing safe walkways to local schools, grocery stores, and workplaces. If you would like help improve the walkability of your city, consider presenting the issue to your local city council. In many areas, clear and simple signage makes a noticeable difference in the perceived walkability of a community and getting people to start walking for health.
What You Can Do to Get Walking
Short of moving to NYC or San Francisco, what can you do if you simply do not live in a walkable area and want to be more active throughout your day? Make your life more walkable however possible! Plan your daily activities in such a way that you can feasibly walk from one thing to the next rather than depending so much on your car. Opting for the stairs over the elevator is a classic way to keep moving, as is parking in the furthest possible spot from the door.
It may also help if you find ways to include walks that don't have a strict purpose. Instead, for example, go for a brisk walk in the middle of the day to help you clear your head and re-energize enough to combat that afternoon lull. Walks can also be a perfect way for you to spend time with your family while building healthy habits together. It doesn't have to be a major lifestyle adjustment! No matter where you live, you can always find time and space to walk.