Countries with the highest levels of active transportation (trips taken by walking, bicycling and public transit) generally have the lowest obesity rates.
Average distance walked
Average equivalent weight loss per year:
5 to 9 lbs
It doesn't burn fuel or require equipment. It's free, it's healthy and it's efficient. For short distances, walking can be the ultimate commute.
Walking at a moderate pace for just 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 40%, and cut the risk of stroke in half, according to some studies. The benefits are similar to what can be achieved through more strenuous exercise like aerobics and jogging.
Other physical benefits of walking:
- controls weight
- prolongs life
- controls blood pressure
- improves circulation
- boosts "good" cholesterol
- reduces risk of breast cancer
- prevents type 2 diabetes
- protects against bone fractures
- strengthens muscles and joints
- improves the immune system
Brisk walking on a regular basis can also elevate mind and spirit by combating depression, lowering stress and improving an overall sense of well-being.
increase in total life expectancy as a result of moderate physical activity
calories burned by a 150-pound person walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes
decrease in an individual's risk of obesity by doubling the proportion of neighborhood residents walking to work
Morning commuters crossing tram tracks in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by mugley.
In America, walkable urban households use 20-30% of the energy and emit 20-30% less carbon dioxide than drivable suburban households, according to The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.
And walking displaces between 300 and 910 million gallons of gasoline per year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. This is equivalent to 0.3%-0.8% of fuel consumed by passenger vehicles, and only 0.06%-0.17% of all energy used by the entire U.S. economy.
Another study from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy estimates that modest increases in bicycling and walking could lead to a reduction of 70 billion miles of automobile travel in the United States per year - equivalent to cutting oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles by three percent.
Designing for Pedestrians
The idea of "walkable urbanism," or development that is pedestrian-oriented, featuring high-density, mixed-use and mixed-income places, is gaining ground among people who seek communities where you can live, eat, shop and work without hopping in a car. Not only is it convenient and conducive to social interaction, but it's also good for the environment.
Despite its advantages, walking is giving way to wheels. In developing economies, such as India, people tend to start riding motorcycles or scooters as soon as their income levels rise. And car ownership soon follows.
In order to create a culture of walking, communities must design people-friendly public spaces that integrate various transport networks, including those for road, rail and cycling. More must also be done to increase the safety and security of pedestrian paths. In addition, in order to make walking truly accessible, planners must consider the needs of all residents, regardless of their age, ability, gender or socio-economic status.
The Ten Most Walkable Neighborhoods in the United States:
- San Francisco, CA
- New York, NY
- Boston, MA
- Chicago, IL
- Philadelphia, PA
- Seattle, WA
- Washington D.C.
- Long Beach, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Portland, OR