Walking is an easy way to get moving — but in too many U.S. communities, it’s not an easy option. Last week, the U.S. surgeon general released Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities, which articulates the health benefits of walking while addressing the fact that many communities unacceptably lack safe and convenient places for individuals to walk or wheelchair roll.
Surgeon General Calls for a Focus on Walkable Communities
Data consistently show there are safety and accessibility issues that make communities less walkable. A 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, for example, found that three out of every 10 Americans reported that no sidewalks existed along any streets in their neighborhood. In many communities violence, and the perception of violence, may prove a barrier to walking.
“Everyone deserves to have a safe place to walk or wheelchair roll. But in too many of our communities, that is not the reality,” said Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th U.S. Surgeon General. “We know that an active lifestyle is critical to achieving good overall health. And walking is a simple, effective and affordable way to build physical activity into our lives. That is why we need to step it up as a country ensuring that everyone can choose to walk in their own communities.”
The Surgeon General calls on community planners and local leaders to create more areas for walking and wheelchair rolling and to prioritize the development of safe routes for children to get to and from schools. The call to action suggests that these designs should include sidewalks, curb cuts, crosswalks, safe crossings for the visually impaired and more green spaces. The Surgeon General further calls on city managers, law enforcement and community and public health leaders to address safety concerns by better maintaining public spaces, working with residents to promote a shared sense of community ownership, ensuring proper street lighting and fostering neighborhood watch programs.
Physical activity is one of the most important things Americans can do to improve their health, but we must provide safe and accessible opportunities for all to do so. Read the Surgeon General’s Call to Action
, and learn how to promote walking and walkable communities.