and play; provide information to encourage walking and
improve walkability; and fill surveillance, research, and
evaluation gaps related to walking and walkability.
According to the Call to Action, physical activity can
reduce illness from chronic diseases and premature death,
help prevent risk factors for disease (such as high blood
pressure and weight gain) and protect against multiple
chronic diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and depression). In children and
adolescents, physical activity can improve bone health,
cardio respiratory and muscular fitness. In addition, says
the report, among adults, physical activity is associated
with improved quality of life, emotional well-being and
positive mental health.
Besides reducing illness and disease and improving emo-
tional well-being, the rising interest in walking is due to
the promises beyond better health. According to author
Jay Walljasper, “taking a walk is one of the best ways
to meet new neighbors and deepen ties with those you
Walljasper co-authored a book called, “America’s Walk-
ing Renaissance: How Cities, Suburbs and Towns are
Getting Back on Their Feet,” which outlines other ben-
efits to walking and physical activity.
“You can attribute everything from lower local healthcare
costs and better school performance to more creativity,
reduced anxiety and increased economic health in communities with walkable neighborhoods,” he says.
Walking, it seems, can cure a host of ills. In fact, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, each
. 62 mile walked per day is associated with a 5 percent
decrease in the likelihood of obesity. So, why isn’t everyone doing it?
Getting People to Walk
“Research is saying that telling people to exercise doesn’t
work,” says Marcus Fenton, an independent public health
planning and transportation consultant and adjunct asso-
ciate professor at Tufts University Friedman School of
Nutrition Science and Policy. “At the same time, a growing
body of research shows that if you build an environment
where people walk in daily life, it’s effective. The design
Walljasper agrees. “Exercise must be baked into peoples’
days. If you have to get in your car to go to the gym, you won’t
Physical activity is associated with improved quality of life,
emotional well-being and positive mental health.
Photo by Kent Kanouse
Making roads safer for pedestrians encourages
people to get out and walk more.