obesity is as simple as putting one foot in front of the
other, according to experts at the Pedestrian and Bicycle
Information Center, part of the University of North Carolina
Highway Safety Research Center.
In response to the "Surgeon General's Call to Action" recently released
by U.S. Surgeon General David
Satcher and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy
Thompson against the obesity epidemic, the center has published
several online resources to encourage people to start walking
and incorporate physical activity into their everyday routines.
The tools and information available at www.walkinginfo.org
include walking tips, a checklist to help people determine
how walker-friendly their neighborhoods are and more. The
site also includes articles about the benefits
of walking and stories from communities around the country
that are making great strides toward creating more walkable
and healthier communities.
"For most people, walking is an easy way to add activity
into their daily lives without having to undertake intense
exercise," said Mark Fenton of the Pedestrian and Bicycle
Information Center and author of "The Complete Guide
to Walking." "Unfortunately, not everyone lives
in a neighborhood that is designed to make walking safe
Among the tips Fenton offers those seeking to increase their
physical activity are:
· Add more steps into your day by taking the
stairs or parking further away.
· Walk or bike one daily trip for which you'd
normally drive the car.
· Get a walking buddy or take a family walk
· Walk a child to school or participate in
a Walk to School Day event (www.walktoschool-usa.org).
· Walk through your neighborhood and rate
its "walkability" (www.walkinginfo.org/walkingchecklist.htm).
"Good walkability in a community requires excellent
design and engineering, safe behavior by pedestrians and
cyclists as well as motorists, and recognition that walking
is an important transportation option with tremendous health
benefits," said Charles Zegeer, director of the Pedestrian
and Bicycle Information Center. "Using the walkability
checklist, citizens can identify barriers to walking within
their community and find immediate and long-term solutions."
The checklist asks people to answer five basic questions
as they walk through their neighborhood:
· Did you have room to walk?
· Was it easy to cross the streets?
· Did drivers behave well?
· Was it easy to follow safety rules?
· Was your walk pleasant and safe?
"Given all we know about the health benefits of walking,
everyone, young and old, should be out walking," said
Fenton. "If people in your community aren't out walking,
find out why and organize an event such as Walk to School
Day to get people moving. Walking can improve people's lives
and their communities. It may be the simplest and most powerful
weapon we have in the battle against obesity."
To view the "Surgeon General's Call to Action,"
click on www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/.
by Shannon Walters
Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center
Phone: (919) 962-7803