Active Transportation Benefits Health: Walk to Run Errands

Reader Contribution by Kelsey Mcclelland
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I live about a half-mile from two gas stations, two miles from Hy-Vee and Walmart, and less than two miles from the mall. These businesses are well within walking distance, but I don’t walk to any of them – I drive. This may seem surprising, but many Americans practice the same habit.

According to the 2010 “National Bicycle and Walking Study” by the U.S. Department of Transportation, 72 percent of trips that are less than three miles in length are made by vehicle. Short distances can be easily traversed by foot rather than by car, but only a quarter of Americans are choosing walking or biking as their means of transportation. 

A December 2012 study by Gregg L. Furie, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, says that about 25 percent of Americans participate in active transportation. Active transportation is defined as human-powered transportation, such as walking or biking. The results of the study showed that those who participated in active transportation had a lower BMI, lower waist circumference, and lower odds of developing hypertension and diabetes.

The “Vital Signs: Walking Among Adults” study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages adults to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. However, about half of all adults do not get the recommended amount of exercise, and about one-third reported no physical activity at all.  The study also showed that walkers were three times more likely to meet the recommended amount of exercise than non-walkers.

In addition to the health benefits associated with active transportation, there are many less obvious benefits as well. The American Automobile Association’s (AAA) annual “Your Driving Costs” study for 2012 revealed that the average annual cost for owning and operating a sedan is $8,946. Compared with essentially cost-free foot travel or the $120 annual cost of owning a bicycle (according to the League of American Bicyclists), choosing active transportation saves you money. 

Walking is an easily accessible, low-impact activity that can be done anywhere, anytime, with anyone. By implementing walking as a primary form of commuting, people can increase their health and decrease their spending. Participating in human-powered transportation also removes some of the stresses of driving from people’s lives. By walking, people can avoid traffic congestion, stop signs, tailgaters and road rage. Realistically, walking to work could not only be more beneficial, but also more practical than driving.

So, put down the car keys, lace up your walking shoes and prepare yourself for a commute that few choose to experience – walking.   

Photo by Fotolia/Peggy Blume