Why the U.S. Surgeon General Wants You to Walk More

Why the U.S. Surgeon General Wants You to Walk More

Photo: Pond5

Did you know that 50 percent of Americans aren’t getting the recommended amount of physical activity to reduce their risk for heart disease and diabetes? Well, U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, isn’t too happy about that — which is why he wants us all to do one simple thing to get moving: Start walking more.

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“Walking is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to build physical activity into your life,” Dr. Murthy said in a press conference today. “You don’t need a fancy gym membership or a set of skills,” he said, issuing a call to action for Americans to #stepitup and begin walking more. And Dr. Murthy is going to help you do it, too.

How We Can All Walk More

So what’s holding half the American population back from taking a stroll? “In the last few decades we have lost touch with physical activity,” Murthy said. “It has slowly vanished from our workplaces. Our children have [fewer] opportunities in school to be active. In our neighborhoods, we find more and more people who are encountering difficulty with walking including safety issues.”

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In fact, 30 percent of Americans report that they don’t even have sidewalks in their neighborhood, according to Murthy. And others say that they don’t feel safe walking within their own communities. “We can change it by [having] city planners, transportation professionals and local government leaders working together to improve the safety and walkability of neighborhoods for people with all abilities,” Murthy said. “Community leaders and the law enforcement can work together to make sure that no American is ever unsafe walking out the door,” he added.

Plus, Dr. Murthy plans to work with large corporations like Johnson & Johnson to ensure that workplaces warm up to active ideas, like walking meetings. “Our own research demonstrates that if employees not only are physically active but get up and move often and at regular intervals throughout the workday, they are more focused, more engaged and more energized both at work and at home. They are more motivated,” Dr. Jack Groppel, co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, said at today’s press conference.

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You don’t have to walk hours each day to start reaping the mental and physical benefits of exercise, either. “The science on this topic is clear,” Murthy said. “It tells us that an average of 22 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, which comes out to about 2 1/2 hours per week, can significantly reduce our risk of diabetes and heart disease.” And if you need some tunes to keep you occupied during your power stroll, start with the surgeon general’s very own walking playlist on Pandora — then browse some of our other favorites.

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