“Walking is the easiest, most assessable and most popular way Americans get exercise,” said Frieden. ”It doesn’t cost anything, you don’t have to join a gym or change your clothes before and after. It’s something virtually anyone can do.”
If the government’s recommendation of at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week sounds daunting to you, join the club. Fewer than half of Americans meet the government’s physical activity goal, and about one-third report getting no exercise at all.
But new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that may be changing. In a new report, the CDC finds that more and more Americans are taking up the simple act of walking for exercise, and that those who get out there and walk are about three times more likely to meet physical activity requirements.
The report looked at data from the 2005 and 2010 National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS), which included nearly 50,000 adults in total. The data showed that in 2010, 62% of adults reported walking for at least 10 minutes at least once the past week, up from 56% in 2005. Increases in walking were seen among nearly all subgroups of participants surveyed, regardless of age, gender, weight, race, geography or overall health. Even among adults who needed walking assistance, 1 in 4 reported walking.
“Fifteen million more Americans were walking in 2010 compared to 2005,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director, in a conference call, emphasizing the remarkable benefits of a walk. “There really is no single drug that can do anything like what regular physical activity does and that’s why [walking] really is a wonder drug. It makes you healthier and happier. Even if you don’t lose any weight, getting regular exercise will decrease your risk of getting sick, getting diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and many other conditions.”
In the survey, walkers were defined as those who engaged in at least one bout of walking in the previous week for at least 10 minutes; the walk could have been undertaken for any reason, such as transportation, fun, walking the dog, relaxation or exercise. Americans living in the West and Northeast logged the most walks, but Southerners made the most strides in terms of increasing their walking prevalence, with 49% reporting walking in 2005, compared with 57% in 2010.
More adults with arthritis and hypertension also reported walking, which is good news, since physical activity can alleviate symptoms associated with both diseases.