Sitting less, moving more and running are all topics I’ve written about at HealthComU. It’s something we all hear about quite often. Be more active because it’s good for your health. However, strenuous activity isn’t for everyone and may not be healthy for everyone. That’s why it’s important to remember that the simple effort of walking can be the key to staying physically active.
The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, recently launched a campaign targeting the importance of walking: Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities. The campaign addresses the major public health challenges that affect our country, such as heart disease and diabetes. His call to action articulates the health benefits of walking while also addressing the lack of safe and convenient places for people to walk in their own communities. The Surgeon General is calling on community planners, local leaders, city managers, law enforcement, and community and public health leaders to address safety concerns and create more safe walkable areas.
So what makes walking so beneficial? To start, it’s uncomplicated. Walking is about the simplest exercise that there is, all you need is a good, supportive pair of shoes. Taking regular brisk walks can help you:
- Maintain a healthy weight and lower the risk of obesity
- Prevent or manage various conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
- Improve blood sugar levels and blood lipid profile (cholesterol)
- Strengthen your bones to reduce risk of osteoporosis
- Improve your balance and coordination
- Lift your mood and improve mental well-being
Grab a partner and start walking. Walking with a partner provides you with accountability because neither person wants to let the other down. When taking your walk outdoors, follow these tips to stay safe:
- Walk with a partner whenever possible
- Carry an ID and a friend or relative’s phone number with you
- Wear a medical bracelet if you have diabetes, an allergy, or other condition
- Carry a cell phone and let a friend or relative know your route
- Avoid deserted or unlit streets, especially after dark
- Don’t use headsets that prevent you from hearing traffic and walk against oncoming traffic
- Wear reflective material and carry a flashlight so others can see you
- Carry a whistle, noisemaker, or pepper spray in case of an emergency
Dr. Vivek Murthy states, “We know that an active lifestyle is critical to achieving good overall health. And walking is a simple, effective, and affordable way to build physical activity into our lives. That is why we need to step it up as a country ensuring that everyone can choose to walk in their own communities.” He goes on to add, “We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity—such as brisk walking—can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The key is to get started because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.”
As health communicators we can play a large part in answering the Surgeon General’s call to action. What steps could your community take to improve or create safe walkable areas?