This morning I watched one of my neighbors drive her car from her doorstep to her mailbox, turn around, and return home. It was a road trip of about 300 feet! A few minutes later I was browsing Grist and ran across a really funny article essentially chastising Americans for our unwillingness to walk. I haven't shared it with my neighbor yet.
The good news is we do seem to be walking more than we were a few years ago. In a CDC study of walking between 2005 and 2010, research showed that we've gone from a country in which 56% of people walk at least 10 minutes each week to a country in which 62% of people walk 10 minutes each week. Great!! Now, what about the rest of the country? I find it remarkable that 38% of the country does not take at least one ten minute walk each week.
Now, it is true that there are some Americans that are physically incapable of taking a ten minute walk. Some of them (including a couple of my really close friends) have physical disabilities that make even something as simple as a walk impossible. Many more, however, cannot walk 10 minutes because they've been driving to their mailbox for so many years that their body has all but wasted away.
I'm not a huge movie fan but I love the depiction of Americans in the movie WALL-E. If you haven't seen the movie, future humans are depicted as mobile only through floating chairs controlled by joystick. When a renegade human decides to buck the system and get out of the chair, he is so obese and out of shape that he simply buckles to the floor. America at its best!
Things aren't really that bad yet, but they aren't good either. Did you know that walking is an Olympic Sport? Funny how American coverage of the Olympics tends to focus only on the sports that Americans win. Walking in the Olympics includes a mens 20 km race, a mens 50 km race, and a womens 20 km race. I tried hard to find out how Americans did in the event. It took me some scrolling down but I did find an American took 26th place in the mens' 20 km. An American didn't appear until 43rd in the 50km. Maybe we need to brush up on our walking skills!
According to the CDC we need at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week. Fewer than half of all Americans meet that goal. The CDC also reports that those not getting the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic activity suffer from increased heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.
I think it is time to take a walk! I recognize we tend to be busy these days, but I think we can come up with 150 minutes of aerobic activity. Maybe it is walking to work. Maybe it is an evening walk with our children after dinner each evening.
What do you do to stay fit with a busy life? I know many of you reading this are young mothers with challenging lives, but I also know many of you find a way to stay fit. How do you do it? Please share in the comments below.
Vincent M. Smith - PhD