The Decline of Walking in America: Exploring the Benefits and Importance of Walking

In the United States, nearly two people die every minute from cardiovascular disease, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., costing the country about $239 billion annually.

The solution to lowering the risk of heart disease may be as simple as incorporating daily walking into your routine. However, there has been a significant decline in walking among Americans. According to Axios, the number of annual average daily walking trips dropped by a staggering 36% between 2019 and 2022.

Reasons for the decline in walking

Two studies have identified significant reasons for the decrease in walking among Americans. The impact of COVID-19 is one of the factors leading to this decline. According to a study published in Jama Network Open, individuals wore Fitbits before and after the COVID-19 pandemic and took approximately 600 fewer steps per day on average post-pandemic, as stated by study author Dr. Evan Brittain, who is an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in an interview with ABC News.

Other research, shared in Neuroscience News, found that Americans walk significantly less than people in European countries and experience higher fatality rates. This has led to a preference for driving. According to Ralph Buehler, a professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech, the study revealed that Americans take less than half the number of daily walking trips compared to the British but are six times more likely to experience fatality per mile walked.

Significance of walking

Regular walking can increase lifespan by up to five years and reduce the risk of heart disease by 30% to 40% if done briskly for three or more hours a week, according to the Arizona Heart Foundation.

Walking has numerous health benefits, such as preventing stroke, managing blood pressure, preventing cancer, managing weight, improving cognitive abilities, reducing stress, and boosting the immune system, as shared by the Mayo Clinic.

Recommended walking goals

For general health, Medical News Today recommends 10,000 steps a day, equivalent to about five miles, with more steps leading to better health. It’s advised to gradually increase your step count rather than all at once, as recommended by Healthline.

If you want to make walking a habit, Simplyhealth suggests making it social, establishing a routine, walking to shorter destinations, using public transport that requires walking, parking further away, and using a tracking device.


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