Report: More Americans Walking

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I try to walk my dog three miles most mornings. She loves it too, and her joy in going for a walk is contagious. “Your dog makes me smile,” another walker told me in passing earlier this week as my dog trotted happily at my side.

    It turns out that I’m not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just reported that 145 million adults in the United States are incorporating walking into their daily routine. That means that slightly more than six of 10 Americans are pulling on their exercise shoes and stepping on the sidewalk, trail or hiking path. Some walk for fun while others use walking as their main mode of transportation.  And interestingly, there’s been a six-percent increase in walkers from 2005 (when 56 percent reported walking at least once for 10 minutes more during a week) to 2010 (when 62 percent reported walking that amount).

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    The CDC found that the highest percentage of adults who walk live in the West and Northeast. However, the South had the largest percentage increase of adults walking during the study’s duration. Furthermore, more adults who have arthritis or high blood pressure are walking; unfortunately, a similar trend is not being seen among people with type 2 diabetes.

    Sixty percent of several subgroups – including whites, Hispanics and other races – reported walking while slightly less than 60 percent of Blacks walked in 2010. The good news is that all four groups have grown in numbers since 2005.

    The percentage among all age groups who reported walking increased from 2005 to 2010. Sixty percent of the members of four age groups -- 18-24 years, 25-34 years, 35-44 years and 45-64 years – reported walking. The 65-and-older group was slightly behind at just under 60 percent reporting walking.

    The study also found that people would walk to numerous locations if they’re located with one mile of the starting point. This includes school and church (46 percent), shops (40 percent), work (35 percent), and social or recreation fun (60 percent). Those percentages drop off to five percent if the person has to walk between 3-4 miles for social or recreational fun. There’s a larger drop to one percent if the person has to walk between 3-4 miles to go to work, shopping, church and school.

    It’s good to see people walking more, especially since it’s a healthy and cheap mode of transportation. Speaking of health, the Mayo Clinic notes that walking can help you lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of or manage type 2 diabetes, and improve one’s outlook.

    Even though walking is pretty simple, you still need to be aware of some basic needs if you plan to make this part of your exercise routine. First of all, treat yourself to a good pair of shoes. You need a pair that has arch supports suited to your feet as well as thick flexible soles. When shopping, be sure to try the shoes on with the type of socks you’ll be wearing. Walk around in the store, testing the shoes on the different types of flooring (i.e., carpet vs. tile, which will be similar to what pavement will feel like in the shoes).  Also, be prepared to replace the shoes periodically since they will wear down, causing you to feel discomfort.

  • Wearing loose clothing also is recommended. Be sure to wear breathable materials so that your sweat can evaporate, especially during the warm months of the year. Also, if you like to walk at night (or in my case, before dawn), be sure to wear bright colors or reflective tape so that others can see you.
    Warming up and stretching will help your muscles get ready. You should try to incorporate stretches that stretch your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and sides. I personally tend to like to do toe touches, which stretch most of my legs and my lower back before I start out on a walk.

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    If you haven’t walked as part of your exercise routine, start with low intensity and short distances and then work up. Be sure to use good posture and maintain a comfortable stride. You also can use a pedometer to measure the number of steps your taking. Then periodically start adding a little more distance or intensity. That way, you’ll get a good (and cheap) workout!

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). More people walk to better health.

    Mayo Clinic. (2010). Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health.

Published On: August 10, 2012