More adults walking but need to step it up
More people in the USA say they're walking regularly, a new government survey shows. But fewer than half say they meet the federal government's physical activity guidelines.
About 62% of adults in 2010 said they walked at least once for 10 minutes or more in the past week, up from 56% in 2005. That means about 145 million walk at least a little, either for fun, relaxation, exercise or to get to places -- an increase of 15 million from 2005.
The findings are based on interviews with almost 45,500 people in the National Health Interview Surveys. Activity levels are self-reported.
"The basic news today is that physical activity is the wonder drug, and more Americans are making a great first step in getting more physical activity," says Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Walking is the easiest, most accessible way" to be more active, he says.
The South, which has the highest obesity rate, also had the highest percentage increase in the number of people who report walking, Frieden says.
"We hypothesize that new walkers appear to be starting with short bouts, so overall the average time has gone down slightly," says Joan Dorn, chief of CDC's Physical Activity and Health Branch. The average time reported decreased from 15 minutes a day in 2005 to 13 minutes in 2010.
This study is "good news, but there's still a lot of room for improvement because half of adults aren't getting enough physical activity," Dorn says. "We need better spaces and more places to make physical activity the easy choice."
The increase in the number of people walking is "a move in the right direction," says Tim Church, director of preventive medicine research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.
About 48% of people in 2010 said they met the government's physical activity guidelines, up from 42% in 2005. About a third report being inactive.
The government recommends that adults get at least 2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week, such as brisk walking (fast enough that you get a little winded), or 1 hours of a vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, or a combination of the two types, to get the most health benefits from exercise. It should be done at least 10 minutes at a time.
A National Cancer Institute study found that fewer than 5% of adults meet the recommendations.
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