Friday, October 15, 2010

Americans Walk Far Less Than Those in Other Countries

It should really come as no surprise that Americans walk far less than their counterparts in other countries, and now we have scientific data to support that claim. From the Reuters news account:

Adults in western Australia average 9,695 steps a day. The Swiss followed with 9,650, while the Japanese clocked in with 7,168 steps. But Americans straggled far behind with just 5,117 steps.
 "We were surprised that the levels of physical activity were that low," said Dr. David R. Bassett, of the University of Tennessee, the lead author of the study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
"Five thousand steps is really pretty inactive," he added.

And while we may need to hit the gym more, the author suggests that the main culprit has to do with the lack of walking in our day-to-day environment.

Bassett thinks America's car culture and lack of adequate public transportation provide fertile ground for couch potatoes.
"People do have to exercise," he said. "But our overall environment does not lend itself to promoting an active lifestyle."
Indeed, there is a clear link between biking or walking to work, and positive health outcomes.

We can also see that cities that invest in rail transit tend to have an increase in walking. As Infrastucturist nicely summarizes:
  • All cities experienced a slight increase in commuter walking, at 1.8 percent
  • Cities without rail had a 2.7 percent decrease
  • Cities with rail but no major new rail investments saw a 1.7 percent increase
  • Cities with major new rail investments jumped 4.2 percent
 Just something to think about as our health care costs continue to skyrocket.

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