More Americans are walking for exercise than were seven years ago, says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but an improved health landscape will require even more change.
The report says that less than 50 percent of adults get the recommended amount of physical activity – that's just two-and-a-half hours of moderate, aerobic physical activity every week.
On top of that, about one-third of Americans report getting no exercise at all.
But when it comes to walking, prevalence increased from nearly 56 percent in 2005 to 62 percent in 2010, according to the report.
The CDC said women and older adults are less likely to get the recommended level of weekly physical activity, compared to other demographics. That's not good, because inactive adults are at higher risk for premature death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers.
Noting that regular physical activity, like walking, helps people get to and then maintain a healthy weight, the CDC highlights several trends:
– The West and Northeast regions of the United States have the highest percentage of adults who walk in the country.
– The South saw the biggest percent increase in adults who walk compared to other regions.
– There was an uptick in adults with arthritis or high blood pressure who are now walking; there was no such increase among diabetics.
– Walking increased among adults 65 and older, but that increase was less than the increase in other age groups.
The study's authors said people, understandably, are more likely to walk around when they feel protected from traffic and crime. It's also more likely if sidewalks and other paths traversed on foot are in good shape.
Researchers recommend that communities "implement evidence-based strategies such as creating or enhancing access to places for physical activity" – in other words, they recommend making neighborhoods more walkable.
They also write that "using design and land use policies and practices that emphasize mixed-use communities and pedestrian-friendly streets" will help get people out the door and on their feet.
In South Los Angeles, it remains to be seen how likely it is those recommendations will be met. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who oversees the city's Ninth District, says the area has a dire need for more park space; organizations like the Trust for Public Land, however, are working toward that – with its Avalon Green Alley Network Plan, for example.
But crime will be a possible deterrent to folks looking to get out and exercise – the L.A. Times' Mapping L.A. project shows that South Park, for example, has the 20th-highest violent crime rate in the county; Vermont Knolls to the west has the fourth-highest.
Another fitness option? Use the public, freestanding exercise equipment, like the kind you can find at Hoover Recreational Center.
Photo by Jose Medina via Flickr Creative Commons.