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.
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Grocery shopping? Make an extra tour around the perimeter aisles before checking out.
Use the restroom one floor down (or up) at work instead of heading for the one just down the hall.
Ditto with your coffee.
Hide the remote so you have to actually get up to change the channel. Better yet, turn off the TV.
Park The Car
Instead of fighting other drivers for that single open spot near the door, do your blood pressure a favor and park several rows away.
Don't Just Sit There
Walk <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20355765,00.html" target="_hplink">around the block </a>while your kid is taking dance class/playing soccer/whatever.
Get Off The Bus
Get off the bus or subway one stop early.
Brush Your Teeth
March in place while brushing your teeth (go ahead and shut the door first if you'd like).
Get The Mail
Going to the mailbox? Take a tour around the house first -- then take the time to say hello to that chatty neighbor who flags you down.
Walk To The Store
Hoof it to the store when you're only buying a few easy-to-carry items.
Don't Send That Email
Walk over to your coworker's desk instead of e-mailing her.
Make it a nightly habit to go for an after-dinner stroll with the family.
Early for an appointment? Walk around the block instead of adding to your interminable time in the waiting room.
Take a daily afternoon "brainstorming" walk.
Wander the room while chatting on the phone.
Walk To School
Walk your child to school instead of waiting in the endless carpool line.
Instead of cooping yourself and your coworkers up in a stuffy conference room, make your next meeting a walking one.
Headed to the mall? Stroll the length of it once before you start buying -- and scout the sales while you're at it.
Set An Alarm
Set the alarm on your computer to go off every hour or two, then take a quick tour around the floor (or even just a trip up and down the hall) when it does.
Next time you have to run a couple of errands, park midway between your destinations and walk to them both. In between, pause to leave the dry cleaning in the car before strolling over to pick up your best friend's birthday gift.
Forget The Stilletos
Leave the stilettos in the closet and charm your hubby (or boyfriend) into taking a moonlit walk after dinner at your favorite restaurant.
No More Escalators
Tell yourself that you're allergic to escalators and act accordingly.
Instead of getting together with the girls for a stay-put meal, plan an evening of window-shopping or an afternoon of new-neighborhood scouting.
Take The Scenic Route
Whenever possible (and safe), take the scenic route! <strong>More from Health.com:</strong> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20432121,00.html" target="_hplink">10 Ways to Walk Off Fat Faster</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20500418,00.html" target="_hplink">9 Easy Ways to Sneak in More Exercise</a> <a href="http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20395219,00.html" target="_hplink">20 Ways to Torch 200 Calories</a>