Surgeon general to call for national walking campaign

Don’t misunderstand us, but … take a walk.

Really, it’s some of the best advice you’ll get, according to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. He’s called for a national campaign centered on walking, an activity aimed at combating chronic disease and obesity. 

According to Murthy, the government will partner with schools, nonprofit organizations and the private sector to promote walking and to surmount obstacles that stand in the way of simply taking a walk.

The Surgeon General’s “call to action” seeks to make walking a national priority, promote development of communities where it is safe and easy to walk, develop walking programs, and conduct research on walking.

Walking is an example of the kind of physical activity that is slowly vanishing from our homes, schools, and workplaces. The time has come, Murthy says, to build activity back into our daily lives, and walking is one of the easiest and most available forms for most people.

He referred to the open letter, titled “The Soft American, written in 1960 by President-elect John F. Kennedy, expressing his concern over the loss of Americans’ physical vigor. His subsequent challenge to the Marines, to hike 50 miles in 20 hours, gave rise to a fad of 50-mile hikes that largely faded after he was assassinated.

Fifty-five years later, obesity rates have more than doubled. One of every two adult Americans is living with a chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease — conditions that could be alleviated by a program of walking, Murthy says.

Just 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or other moderately intense physical exercise can reduce the risk factors that lead to such disease, including high blood pressure and obesity, and allow us to enjoy a higher quality of life and improved mental and emotional health. But only about half of U.S. adults get that much exercise, the Surgeon General says.

Walking has a lower risk of injury than high-intensity exercise and can be fit into anyone’s daily life.  It counts, for example, if we take the stairs and stop for “activity breaks” at work. At home, a walk with the spouse is better than having conversations on the couch in front of the TV.

Many communities are unsafe for walking because of crime, heavy traffic, or road design that is poorly suited to pedestrians, and Murthy suggests that communities be planned so that walkers and people in wheelchairs can find safe, accessible places to exercise.

And be forewarned: walking’s only the starting point to the Surgeon General’s goal of a more physically fit America. He says he hopes to expand to other activities, such as strength-training. So … get ready to flex those muscles!

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The Washington Post