Walking is going places. Humans' most common pastime - forsaken for decades as too slow and too much effort - is now recognized as a health breakthrough, an economic catalyst and a route to happiness.
Real Simple magazine (circulation: 2 million) declared "walking America's untrendiest trend" in its February 2014 cover story.
This sheer pleasure of walking is highlighted in one of the year's top music videos, "Happy" by soul singer Pharrell Williams. It's an exuberant celebration of life on foot showing all kinds of people (including Magic Johnson, Steve Carrell and Jimmy Kimmel) strutting, stepping, striding and sashaying down city streets. It's been viewed 465 million times on You Tube.
There is sure to be continuing coverage of foot power next year when the Surgeon General's office releases a Call to Action on the health and social benefits of walking and walkable communities - a step some are comparing to the 1964 Surgeon General's Report on the dangers of smoking. Already the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all adults engage in 30 minutes of physical activity such as walking five days a week based on the proven connection between moderate physical activity and lower incidences of major medical problems - not just heart disease, diabetes and obesity, as you'd expect, but also depression, dementia, anxiety, colon cancer, osteoporosis and other serious conditions.
This flurry of attention about walking is more than a flash-in-the-pan. Evidence that millions of Americans' are now rediscovering walking for transportation, fitness and fun is as solid as the sidewalk beneath our feet.
Americans Are Getting Back on their Feet
"Walking is the most common form of physical activity across incomes and ages and education levels," explained Thomas Schmid of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the Pro-Walk, Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference in Pittsburgh this fall. The CDC's most recent research shows the number of Americans who take a walk at least once a week rose from 56 percent in 2005 to 62 percent in 2010 - which represents almost 20 million more people on their feet.
Speaking on the same panel, Paul Herberling of the US Department of Transportation noted that 10.4 percent of all trips Americans make are on foot - and 28 percent of trips under a mile. For young people, it's 17 percent of percent of all trips. Americans walk most frequently for exercise, errands and recreation, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Last year the first-ever Walking Summit was held in Washington DC, drawing more than 400 people from 41 states and Canada representing 235 organizations ranging from the PGA Tour to the Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Department of Health. A second summit is scheduled for October 28-30, 2015 in Washington, DC. The 2013 summit, which sold out weeks in an advance, marked the birth of a new walking movement committed to: 1) encouraging everyone to walk more; and 2) boosting policies, practices and investments that make communities everywhere more walkable. It was convened by the Every Body Walk! Collaborative, a joint effort of more than 100 influential organizations across many fields to promote walking as part of the solution to problems ranging from chronic disease and health care costs to climate change and the decline of community.
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