Surgeon General’s “Step It Up!” call to action to promote walking resonates in Charleston
By David Quik, Post & Courier
The simplest form of exercise — walking — is the theme of the first Surgeon General’s report on physical activity since 1996. DAVID QUICK/STAFF
We all know that walking is good for you and that, as “exercise” goes, it is the simplest, least expensive and physically demanding of a long list of activities.
‘Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities’
Here’s a few important points from the Surgeon General’s first comprehensive report on physical activity since 1996. Read the full report and more at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/calls/walking-and-walkable-communities/exec-summary.html
One out of every two U.S. adults is living with a chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. These diseases contribute to disability, premature death, and health care costs. Increasing people’s physical activity levels will significantly reduce their risk of chronic diseases and related risk factors.
Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities calls on Americans to be more physically active through walking and calls on the nation to better support walking and walkability.
To obtain substantial health benefits, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination, each week and that children and adolescents be active for at least 60 minutes every day.
People who are inactive and those who do not yet meet the guidelines are strongly encouraged to work toward this goal. Adults with disabilities who are unable to meet the guidelines should avoid inactivity and try to get regular physical activity according to their abilities.
Promoting walking offers a powerful public health strategy to increase physical activity. With the Call to Action, the U.S. Surgeon General calls on Americans to be physically active and for the nation to better support walking and walkability for people of all ages and abilities. To improve walking and walkability, communities need to be designed to make walking safer and easier; programs and policies need to be available to support and encourage walking; and individuals and families need to support each other to become and stay active. Many partners are already involved, but more engagement is needed to increase the reach, breadth, and impact of these efforts. Walking is an easy and inexpensive way to improve the health and well-being of all Americans. Now is the time to step it up and make walking a national priority.
SOURCE: Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities.
Yet fewer than half of us walk enough to reap the benefits of preventing the top killers of Americans: heart disease and cancer.
Earlier this month, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued the office’s first comprehensive report on physical activity since 1996. The report is called “Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities.”
In a nutshell, Murthy underscored not only the importance of getting Americans to walk 150 minutes a week but how all of us — governments, schools, businesses, neighborhoods and individuals — need to make the our communities friendlier and more conducive for walking.
“We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity — such as brisk walking — can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” said Dr. Murthy, in the report issued on Sept. 9. “The key is to get started because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.”
He added, “Everyone deserves to have a safe place to walk or wheelchair roll. But in too many of our communities, that is not the reality … That is why we need to step it up as a country ensuring that everyone can choose to walk in their own communities.”
Safety is key
Local academics and advocates applauded Murthy’s report and said it should be used to bolster action on building better infrastructure and encouraging walking.
Dr. Daniel Bornstein, a Citadel health professor and project coordinator for the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan, says evidence is clear that walking provides significant health benefits and that national efforts to focus on promoting it is a key strategy.
But he says the report’s biggest contribution is in urging all entities to join in an effort to make communities more walking-friendly. After all, the 2013 report notes that 30 percent of Americans live in neighborhoods without sidewalks.
“Relying on individual responsibility is not working,” says Bornstein, regarding the inactivity crisis and its relationship to diseases. “It’s incumbent upon towns, schools and employers to be more active in encouraging walking.”
Kurt Cavanaugh, executive director of Charleston Moves, says no one is surprised to hear that walking, whether for recreation or transportation, is healthy, but that “people choose to walk when it’s convenient, safe and enjoyable.”
“In the Lowcountry, people frequently walk along uninviting high-speed streets with little or no infrastructure designed for safe passage. We lack sidewalks and dedicated crosswalks in many areas,” says Cavanaugh.
Some changes simple
As an example, Cavanaugh pointed to a 5.6-mile stretch of Rivers Avenue in North Charleston between Morris Baker Boulevard and Helm Avenue that has no dedicated crosswalk, “forcing people to dangerously cross Rivers without the aid of a signalized crosswalk.”
He also noted that 55 people were killed while walking in Charleston County between 2009 to the present and that an average of 215 pedestrians are seriously injured each year.
“This is unacceptable and preventable,” says Cavanaugh. “We must design our streets and intersections that are safe for everyone — people walking, people biking, people driving. This can be done today with very little or no money, and without burdensome studies.”
One simple solution, Cavanaugh said, is banning right turns on red lights at intersections with a lot of pedestrian traffic.
Also, reducing the speed limit — and enforcing it — is another affordable way to save lives, he said.
Walking the walk
Concerted efforts to encourage walking for exercise have been underway for years. One of note is the Medical University of South Carolina’s LEAN team, which started holding walks on the Cooper River bridge pedestrian lane on Saturday mornings in November 2007.
The walks were held weekly for five years, according to one of the organizers, Coleen Martin.
But as the LEAN team staff started taking on more responsibilities, including the creation of the MUSC Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness, and as more walking groups started to form, the walk began being held monthly, on the first Saturday of each month.
Of the other groups that formed, Martin noted that Fleet Feet Sports, Seacoast Community Church, Eat Smart Move More, Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission and other government entities have started walking programs and wellness initiatives with strong walking components.
Be a walking leader
Eat Smart Move More Charleston Tri-County wants people to step up and become trained “community volunteer walking group leaders.”
A free training session will be held 3:30-4:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control clinic, 106 Westview Blvd viagra 50 oder 100., Goose Creek. This training provides leaders with everything they need to know to plan and recruit walkers for a community walking group.
Send name, contact information and location of proposed walking group to Sharon Crossley at [email protected] or via fax at 843 953-0081 by Friday.
Get out with Fido
In the wake of the Surgeon General’s report, the Harvard Medical School took the opportunity to remind people that canine companionship often has cardiovascular and other health benefits for owners.
“Research shows that people who have a dog are far more likely to get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week,” says Dr. Elizabeth Frates, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and one of the medical editors of the special health report, Get Healthy, Get a Dog www.health.harvard.edu/dog.
Dogs are the ultimate exercise partners: Unlike a human walking buddy, a dog will never choose to grab a cup of coffee instead of going for a brisk walk.
Frates says dog ownership can even encourage physical activity among people who traditionally get less exercise. If someone hasn’t been active for a long time, walking a dog can lessen any embarrassment he or she may feel about physical appearance and level of fitness. Being out and about with a dog may also enhance a person’s sense of social connectedness.
Need an event to kick off your fall walking program? If you live in Charleston, you’re in luck.
While many running races have walks, the local American Heart Association’s Lowcountry Heart Walk is a walk geared to everyone and as a celebration of walking for heart health.
This year’s event will be at 8 a.m. Oct. 3 at Liberty Square in Charleston. Registration is free, but participants are urged to raise donations.
Lighten Up & Move IT!
In recent years, many public and corporate wellness programs have sprung up.
Among the public ones are the city of Charleston’s “Lighten Up Charleston” and the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission’s “Move IT! Charleston County.”
Move IT’s “Walk & Restore” is a 55-minute class that involves short walking loops combined with stretching and “restorative yoga” sessions.
In October, it will be held on Mondays and Thursdays on the shaded trails of McLeod Plantation Historic Site and Caw Caw Interpretive Center. The cost is $8 for county residents and $10 for nonresidents. Discounts are available for those signing up for six or more classes.