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Active Transportation Rates Dismal

The simple act of walking offers myriad health benefits—reductions in stress, blood pressure and mortality, to name a few. Despite these benefits and the accessibility of walking, the majority of U.S. citizens do not walk continuously for more than 10 minutes in an average week.

Using data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers looked at levels of “active transportation” (walking or bicycling, for example) as well as body mass index and waist circumference in 9,933 subjects. Study participants were aged ≥20 years, were not pregnant and had no mobility impairments.

The researchers learned that 43% of participants did not meet the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. “Overall, 76% of individuals did not walk or bike for more than 10 minutes continuously for transportation in a typical week (i.e., no active transportation), and 19% of individuals engaged in no physical activity in any form,” the authors reported. “Individuals who engaged in the highest level of active transportation, compared with those who engaged in no or low active transportation, were younger and more likely to be male, Mexican-American, lower income and less than high-school educated.”

Active transportation—both low and high amounts—was associated with lower BMI, smaller waist circumference and reduced potential for hypertension. Additionally, “compared with no active transportation, high active transportation was associated with 31% lower odds of having diabetes; the odds of having diabetes among individuals with low active transportation also were reduced, but did not reach significance,” the authors stated.

“Evidence for the diverse health benefits associated with active transportation is mounting,” the authors reported. “This study provides support for the value of active transportation in reducing the prevalence of important cardiovascular disease risk factors, including obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Interventions to promote the use of active transportation in the U.S. should be pursued.”

The study appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2012; 43 [6], 621–28).

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