Why Can’t We Just Walk More?
I was recently on the prowl for news items for my most recent column, and I came across a research study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. It was about how Americans have fallen behind compared to many other countries in terms of walking.
According to the study, adults in western Australia, Japan and Switzerland averaged 9,695, 7,168 and 9,650 daily steps, respectively; adults in America averaged just 5,117 steps each day.
The study also pointed out that the “median weight gain in U.S. adults is 1.8 lb per year, and this type of ‘creeping weight gain’ is a serious problem.” It sure is a problem, especially considering we live into our 70s.
Simply adding 2,000 steps per day, or about 1 mile of walking, can make a huge difference. We all surely have 20 extra minutes.
America on the Move, a non-profit group actually came up with a list of 100 ways to add 2,000 steps to your day — here are the first 12. You can read all of them here.
Circle around the block when you go outside to get your mail
Walk the outside aisles of the grocery store before shopping
Walk the track at a nearby high school — four laps is roughly 2,000 steps
Make several trips up and down the stairs doing laundry or other household chores
Pass by the drive-thru window and walk into the bank or restaurant
Stroll the halls while waiting for your doctor appointment
Listen to music or books on tape while walking
Invite friends or family members to join you for a walk
Accompany your kids on their walk to school
Take your dog for a walk
Start a walking club in your community
Walk to a nearby store, post office, or dry cleaner to accomplish errands
And yes, while some of them may seem pedantic, obvious and nearly silly, it’s worth reading, digesting and thinking how you can come up with ways to increase your walking. Walking is clearly one of the simplest, easiest way to keep fit, lose weight and feel good.
Bottom line: Walking works. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that people who live in the suburbs — and therefore drive everywhere — weigh 6.3 pounds more than urbanites who are able to walk more in dense cities. Think about Manhattan, the heart of New York City, which has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country, and many experts attribute this to the fact that so many of its residents walk regularly.
Here are a few of my own tips:
Get creative. Parks, paths, trails — find them and use them on a regular basis. If you know where they are, map them out using mapmywalk.com or google maps. Also check out Trimbleoutdoors.com, Localhikes.com, Trails.com, Recreation.gov, and www.traillink.com for interesting walking ideas.
On rainy days, use the shopping malls — again, while window shopping you will have walked the entire mall before you know it.
Make it scenic. Even in your own area there are things to see, there is beauty or interesting things everywhere. Sightseeing is very distracting, and before you know it, you’ll have walked a few miles while discovering more about your neighborhood or even a new neighborhood.
Research shows that the more scenic your walks are, the more you’ll want to take them. Seek out the best-looking walking routes. Some parks offer trails specifically designed for hikers.
Make it practical. A common complaint is being too busy to exercise. So fit in your walking with things you need to do anyway. The dog has to get out, so why not take him for a walk? The kids need to go to school — why not walk them to the bus stop?
If it’s too far to walk all the way to the store or wherever you need to go, drive or take the bus halfway and walk the remaining distance.
Buy a pedometer. What? You don’t own one? They’re not that expensive and there is a ton of research showing how accountability works. Check out this article I wrote on pedometers and buy one today.