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August 8, 2012 | 3 minute read

More Americans Walking, More Need To for Good Health and Cancer Prevention

Almost two-thirds of Americans now say we take walks, a figure that has nudged up slightly over the years and may mean more adults are likely to get the recommended amount of exercise, according to a government report released yesterday.

Walkers are almost three times more likely to meet the US physical activity guidelines than non-walkers, the report also found.

The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The finding bodes well for our health, given that regular physical activity reduces the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Yet even with these slight gains, only 48 percent of Americans meet the physical activity recommendations for good health, the report states. Government recommendations say we should be active at least 150 minutes a week at a moderate-intensity, such as brisk walking. (For cancer prevention, AICR recommends at least 30 minutes of daily activity.)

The CDC researchers used data from 2005 and 2010 National Health Interview Surveys, which included adults 18 and older. Participants were asked if they had walked for at least 10 minute bouts at one point during the past seven days. The study included data of almost 50,000 participants, approximately half in each 2005 and 2010.

From 2005 to 2010, the percentage of adults who walked at least once over the one-week period increased by about 6 percent, to reach 62 percent. The increase was seen among both men and women of different ethnicities, ages and weights, from underweight to obese. Walking also increased among those with arthritis and hypertension.

Yet despite the increase in the number of people walking, adults report walking for shorter jaunts. The average time spent walking decreased by about 2 minutes per day, from 15 to 13 minutes on average.

In 2010, 60 percent of adults who walked met the US physical activity guidelines compared with 30 percent of those who did not walk.

There are several caveats to these findings, including the self-reporting of data. But studies consistently show that walking is the most commonly reported physical activity and the way most adults meet the physical activity guidelines, the authors note.

Finding ways to promote walking may then help us meet the guidelines. Creating walking paths around worksites, improving street lighting and designing streets with sidewalks are a few of the suggested strategies in the report.

Did you know walking is an Olympic sport? (A walker from China just won gold and set a new world record.)

Race walking was included in a CNN article on the 10 strangest Olympic sports.

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