Americans are walking now, but not enough to get health benefits, says a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
The report says that almost 62 percent of Americans walk for 10 minutes or more every week, a 56 percent from 2005. Walking increased among people above the age of 65 but not in other age groups. More than six out of 10 people in the U.S walk for fun, transportation, health or to take the dog out.
The results are based on a telephone interview conducted on a nationally representative sample of more than 23,000 adults.
The CDC recommends that people must get at least two and a half hours (150 minutes) of moderate physical exercise every week - a target that only 48 percent of adults follow today.
Walking is a simple and cost-effective exercise that lowers risk of diabetes, obesity and stroke, depression and certain types of cancers.
"And really walking is possible for just about everyone. It doesn't require special skills, you can do to get places and do things. And I think with physical activity, one of the key concepts is to do something that you enjoy so it's something you are going to keep doing or do something you need to do like walk to work or walk to the store. You have to build it into your regular routine and that's the way to make it part of your life," CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said.
There are reasons why many more don't choose to walk. Aside from personal reasons, traffic and crime in the neighborhood discourage people from walking. The report says that creating more safe places for physical activity can help people get out and exercise more.
"People need more safe and convenient places to walk. People walk more where they feel protected from traffic and safe from crime. Communities can be designed or improved to make it easier for people to walk to the places they need and want to go," said Joan M. Dorn branch chief of the Physical Activity and Health Branch in CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.
Americans living in the West have the highest percent of walkers (67.5 percent) when compared to South and Northeast, but the South has seen a tremendous improvement in number of people starting to walk than other regions.
CDC recommends that school administration, communities and individuals take initiatives to help people start walking.