Walking to well-being

Medical professional’s yesterday highlighted efforts to get more people physically active nationwide as well as the cost benefits of doing so at a health summit at Johns Hopkins University.

Janet Fulton, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said more people are walking, but greater effort needs to be made in local communities. “We are making progress since the call to action…this is a win…but we need more work done on walkability,” Fulton said.

In 2015, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy launched the “Step it Up!” initiative. Under the program, the Department of Health and Human Services provides voluntary guidelines to communities to make them more accessible for pedestrians.

Board President Kathy Smith of the advocacy group America Walks warned making a community more open to those without a vehicle has its drawbacks as well.“When an area becomes more walkable, stores flip, rents rise and the people already living there start to feel the economic pinch…we have to guard against this,” Smith said.

In 2012, a report released by the Brookings Institution claimed living in a highly walkable community can cause a resident to spend 30 percent of his or her annual income on housing.

Walk with a Doc CEO Dr. David Sabgir was not concerned by this.

“I started a group that provides a simple answer and it’s inexpensive…people who are healthier will save money in the long run. I don’t think making these changes hurts,” Sabgir said.

In the past, communities in Florida, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin have been resistant to making it easier to navigate for pedestrians, according to a 2007 report from USA Today. When this happens, Loretta Di Pietro recommends a rough response.

“Relentless hardball is the key to policy change,” Di Pietro said. “Just to give an example, if they want to remove soda from the vending machine. You should ask for the chairs to be removed from the classroom as well.”

Currently, the CDC recommends two and a half hours of walking every week for adults or 75 minutes of high intensity physical activity such as jogging and an hour of physical activity every day for children.

According to Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, if every American followed these guidelines, the savings in health costs would be enormous.

“If 100 percent of people met the CDC levels, $50 billion in medical costs would be averted,” Lee said.

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