US Surgeon General Issues Call to Action to Promote Walking

The US Surgeon General today issued a call to action to encourage people to make walking a priority in their lives and to motivate community leaders to make living and working spaces more walkable.

“Everyone deserves to have a safe place to walk or wheelchair roll. But in too many of our communities, that is not the reality,” said Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, US Surgeon General, in a statement. “We know that an active lifestyle is critical to achieving good overall health. And walking is a simple, effective and affordable way to build physical activity into our lives. That is why we need to step it up as a country ensuring that everyone can choose to walk in their own communities.”

The report, Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities, addresses the health benefits of walking. Walking and other physical activity reduces the risk for cancer, heart and lung disease, and diabetes. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (like brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week, preferably spread throughout the week. Kids should get at least 1 hour of moderate- or vigorous-intensity activity each day, with vigorous-intensity activity at least 3 days each week. Vigorous-intensity activities increase your heart rate and breathing, and make you sweat.

However, the report points out that many people live in places that don’t have sidewalks, or that are perceived as unsafe for walking. The Surgeon General is calling on community planners, local leaders, city managers, and law enforcement to create more areas for walking and wheelchair rolling, and to develop more safe routes for children to walk to and from schools. Specific suggestions include sidewalks, curb cuts, crosswalks, safe crossings for the visually impaired, more green spaces, proper street lighting, and more neighborhood watch programs.

How to step it up

The Surgeon General’s report lists these ways to add more walking into your daily life:

  • Take walks with a coworker at lunchtime.
  • Make a standing walking date with a friend.
  • Walk with your family after dinner.
  • Start or join a walking or hiking club.
  • If you take a bus to work, get off a few stops early or late, and walk. If you drive, park a little farther away.
  • See whether you can do any of your errands by just walking, or by a combination of walking and public transportation.

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