Health Nation — 08 August 2012

A growing number of American adults say they are walking regularly, but less than half exercise enough to improve their health, according to a new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“More than 145 million adults are now getting some of their physical activity by walking,” said Thomas R. Frieden, CDC Director. “People who are physically active live longer and are at lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers.”

CDC researchers surveyed over 23,000 Americans for the study. They found that 62% of adults walked at least once a week for 10 minutes or more in 2010, compared to 56% in 2010. However, the average amount of time spent walking dropped from 15 minutes per day to 13 minutes.

For substantial health benefits to occur, health experts recommend at least 2 1/2 hours per week of moderate aerobic physical activity, such as brisk walking. The activity should be done for at least 10 minutes at a time. Other recommended activities include swimming, bicycling, and running.

In 2010, only 48% of adults exercised enough to improve their health, but that figure is up from 42% five years earlier. Walking is the most popular form of physical activity among adults.

“It is encouraging to see these increases in the number of adults who are now walking,” said Joan M. Dorn, branch chief of the Physical Activity and Health Branch in CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. “But there is still room for improvement. People need more safe and convenient places to walk. People walk more where they feel protected from traffic and safe from crime.”

Other highlights from the report include

  • 68% of people in the West walk regularly, more than any other area of the country.
  • 57% of people living in the South walk, up from 49% in 2005.
  • More adults with hypertension and arthritis are walking.
  • There was no increase in walking for adults with type 2 diabetes.
  • Americans 65 and older are walking more, but less than other age groups.

“Physical activity is the wonder drug,” CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden told reporters. “It makes you healthier and happier. More Americans are making a great first step in getting more physical activity.”

The CDC is encouraging state and local governments and employers to provide more safe places to walk through the use of local school gyms, community tracks, new sidewalks, street lights, and speed bumps, and walking paths complete with maps and signage. Individuals are encouraged to team up with a walking buddy or join a walking group with family, friends or neighbors to step up the amount of exercise they get.

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Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth is a professional writer who holds an MBA. Liz focuses her writing on health news, medical conditions, healthy living, small business, career and work, and financial news. Her clients include The Motley Fool, LIVESTRONG.com, Healthline, HealthNews, Intuit Small Business Blog and many others. She’s author of multimedia App and Vook Conduct a Job Interview: The Video Guide.

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