Walking is a great option for cardiovascular exercise, particularly for those who are unable to engage in more intense forms of exercise due to a health condition or simply being out of shape. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that more Americans are walking for exercise today than they were previously, particularly individuals living in the South. This is great news at a time when so many Americans struggle with obesity.
According to the CDC study, roughly 62% of American adults walked for at least 10 minutes a minimum of one time in the week prior to being surveyed (the survey took place in 2010). When the same survey was performed in 2005, only 56% of adults reported the same. An increase of 6% over the course of just 5 years is considered significant.
Big Improvements in Men and in the South
The biggest overall improvements in walking prevalence were observed in the South, where 57% of individuals reported walking in 2010 compared to just 49% in 2005. The rate of walking among Southern men increased more than the rate among Southern women, with jumps of 9.6% and 5.7%, respectively.
Individuals located in the West were more likely to report recent walking than individuals in any other region of the country. Roughly 68% of those in the West reported a minimum of 10 minutes of weekly walking. Individuals in the Northeast weren’t far behind at 66%, while the Midwest still managed to surpass the South with a figure of 61%.
Going by age demographics, the most-improved age group from 2005 until 2010 was individuals aged 25 to 34. Approximately 62.5% of individuals in this age group reported walking in 2010, with women gaining 7.2% from 2005 and men gaining 11.4% from 2005.
The Health Benefits of Physical Activity
Regular physical activity produces a number of health benefits, including a reduced risk of depression, stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many different cancers. Unfortunately, less than half of of Americans engage in enough exercise to actually realize these health benefits. The CDC recommends that all adults perform at least 2.5 hours of exercise per week in order to receive health benefits. This physical activity should be done at a moderate to vigorous intensity level, with walking defined as a moderately intense physical activity.
Joan M. Dorn, a researcher for the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity within the CDC, said that the increase in walking among the American population is encouraging but still leaves room for improvement. Dorn believes that many individuals, particularly those in urban areas, avoid walking because of concerns about their personal safety.
According to the CDC, some of the things that communities can do to increase their residents’ ability to walk regularly include:
Creating safe walking paths in business areas
Improving access to walking trails
Allowing residents to walk at school tracks and gymnasiums when school is out of session
The Bottom Line
Five-percent more Americans are walking today than they were in 2005, but there are still many ways for communities to encourage their residents to walk and exercise more frequently. In order to realize the health benefits of physical activity, you must exercise moderately for at least 2.5 hours per week, according to the CDC.
The full text of the CDC study can be found in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.