If there was a prescription medicine that could significantly increase your health, with limited side effects, would you take it? If this prescription could drastically reduce the chances of you developing chronic illness, while also helping you through the aging process and increasing your mental well-being, would you consider it? My guess is that you would.
That prescription was just handed out to all Americans. On September 9, 2015, U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivec Murthy announced that he wants us to walk more. He doesn’t want us to move alone though, he’s also endorsing that we create communities that are more “walkable.” He’s named the initiative Step It Up, and wants walking to be a national priority. Dr. Murthy even created a playlist on Pandora to get our arms pumping and keep you moving.
In his executive summary, he shares that in 2012, half of all american adults were living with at least one form of chronic illness. Interestingly, he also noted that only 50% of adults in the U.S. admit to working out for the minimum amount suggested for good health, (as of 2008, those guidelines suggested that we move moderately for 150 minutes per week, or more strenuously for 75 minutes; kids should be running and playing for at least an hour a day.)
Dr. Murthy suggests walking because it’s easily accessible for most people, doesn’t require any kind of special gear, and it’s less likely to cause injury for people that are just starting with an exercise program. He also recognizes, that when combined with proper community planning, walking can easily be integrated into daily life, making more movement a way of life.
He lays out a plan in his call to action. He recognizes that exercise is one of the best ways to prevent illness, it is appropriate for people at all stages of life, and that the people who design the communities we live in should be compelled to provide sidewalks, enticing areas, good public transportation and well-lit streets so that the things that get in our way are more in our control, empowering us to actually get out and walk.
In his Call to Action, he lays out 5 main strategies, which apply to us each individually, as well as to community leaders:
- Make walking a national priority. This calls on everyone, from individuals to community leaders to create a culture of walking in their lives and communities.
- Design walkable communities. When designing communities, thought should be put into creating sidewalks other places for walking that are accessible to everyone. He also stresses the importance of having these places feel safe.
- Create policies that support walking. Here he focuses on school and workplaces, inviting leaders there to create a culture of walking by creating the time and safe places to incorporate movement into the day-to-day rhythm.
- Provide information and education about walking. This speaks to helping people realize how good walking is for them, as well as informing them about great places to walk. We can each do this with a friend or group of friends.
- Research and evaluate. This is more geared toward data collectors and ‘decision makers’, but we can each take the opportunity to research and evaluate our own lives, and how much we are, (or are not) walking as part of our daily routine.
When we consider the amount of money we spend on our health when we get sick, and the outrageous costs associated with chronic illness, we would do well to fill this prescription, and take the full course; finding new walkways to explore and moments in our day to move.