By Annie Hauser
Despite all the news reports on the health benefits of walking and biking, most Americans do not walk, bike, or engage in other forms of active transportation, a new study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine finds.
Less than one quarter of U.S. adults use active transport for more than 10 minutes continuously in a typical week, according to cross-sectional data from two years of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Active transport refers to walking and cycling, wheelchairs, and inline skating or skateboarding. It's an important element to any health society, researchers say.
People who engage in active transport had lower body mass indexes and a lower chance of hypertension than those who do not, researchers found. The demonstrated health benefits are a compelling argument for government policies and infrastructure that enable walking and biking, said lead study author Gregg Furie, MD, of the Yale School of Medicine.
Possible infrastructure improvements include dedicated bicycle lanes and routes, education on bike and motor vehicle road-sharing, public bicycle storage, and better public transportation for both pedestrians and cyclists, researchers say.
The United States has one of the lowest rates of active transport in the world. "This is not an accident. U.S. transportation policies and funding prioritize travel by car, unwittingly discouraging active travel," said James F. Sallis, PhD, chief of the division of behavioral medicine at the University of California, San Diego. "This situation is made worse by land use and zoning policies that separate residential and commercial zones to the extent that it is not feasible to walk for daily needs. These new findings point out how transportation policy is health policy."
He continued, calling this new data "powerful evidence from a large national sample that active transportation is just as beneficial to health as leisure-time physical activity. Not surprisingly, the findings highlight that transportation policies that essentially ignore walking and cycling appear to be contributing to the major chronic diseases that account for 80 percent of healthcare costs."
"Ten-Minute Walks a Stretch for Most Americans" originally appeared on Everyday Health.