Americans Walk Less and Gain More

By , SparkPeople Blogger
My daughterís preschool is less than Ĺ mile from our house, so most days (weather permitting), I push my son up in our double stroller to get her. I feel bad enough driving her to school (my kids donít get up early enough to walk in the morning), but I usually try to combine it with other errands so that our environmental impact isnít quite as terrible.

Usually Iím the only one arriving with a stroller. Most of the moms drive up in their large SUVís and minivans (confession- I drive an SUV too). I know some of them, and also know where they live. A number of them live as close or closer to school than I do, but they always drive. Is it because they donít have time to walk, or donít feel safe? I think itís more likely that they just donít think about it.

New research, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, showed that American adults walk less than adults in some other countries, which also have lower obesity rates. Coincidence? Not likely. Over 1,000 American adults wore pedometers to track their activity throughout the day. Similar studies were also conducted in Japan, Australia and Switzerland. Researchers found that "the mean number of steps Americans take in a day is 5,117, compared with 9,695 for Australians, the walking leaders among the four countries. The USA's 34% adult obesity rate is more than double Australia's 16%."

Although exercise is important when it comes to weight loss, your activity level throughout the day is also key. The CDC recommends 10,000 steps per day (which includes exercise) to maintain good health and an active lifestyle. For most people, 10,000 steps is around five miles worth of daily walking.

If youíre someone who struggles with finding time to exercise, what are some simple ways to add more activity to your day? Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park out further in the store lot instead of right next to the door, and walk when youíre running a nearby errand instead of getting in the car. The short walks to my daughterís school give me a chance to clear my head, get some fresh air and give me an energy boost to get through the rest of the day.

Since becoming a regular exerciser, have you become more active throughout the rest of your day? How has that impacted your weight loss progress? What simple things do you do to squeeze extra activity into the day?

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I work as a substitute teacher and the local campus is about 3/4 mile from the house. I walk unless it's raining in the morning. I don't want to work in wet clothes. One problem I have is that it really isn't safe for walking. Most of the way, I have to walk on the pavement. I wouldn't want kids walking where I do. So in some circumstances, the problem is actually safety, not convenience. Report
Am I more active now? This makes me laugh because I have been a very active person all of my life. Played softball at noon recess, played football with the boys, did both roller and ice skating, sled riding for hours at a time, rode my bicycle a lot and did a lot of housework to help my mother.
And being active never helped me lose weight. My skinny sister has always hated any kind of exercise, moved slowly, ate more than I, and cried because she was so skinny. Now you figure out that one! Report
Am I more active now? This makes me laugh because I have been a very active person all of my life. Played softball at noon recess, played football with the boys, did both roller and ice skating, sled riding for hours at a time, rode my bicycle a lot and did a lot of housework to help my mother.
And being active never helped me lose weight. My skinny sister has always hated any kind of exercise, moved slowly, ate more than I, and cried because she was so skinny. Now you figure out that one! Report
I have definitely become more active during the day ever since I've been exercising. It has also aided my efforts in losing weight. I do 2 Sparkpeople workouts a day, walk my dog, and walk to college. Report
When I lived in the city I used to walk 2 times a day with the dog, usually 1/2 mile, but sometimes up to 3 miles. (the dog got tired when I did this and so did I) Now that we moved to the country. I walk all the time about the yard to the barn etc., but I feel like I am missing something. So this last week, I decided to walk the dog again. It is not so easy, because I can't just step out of the house and go walking. I am afraid that if I walk him down the busy road he will walk himself out there, so I have to drive him about 1/4 of a mile to a private road that runs along side the local lake. We can then do a 1.75 mile walk that we both enjoy. I pushed him to 2.25 miles, but I think he needs to work up to that. So on that note off we go....Thanks for the push! Report
I used to walk my children to the bus stop and often we were the only ones there without a car, even though the walk was LESS THAN TWO BLOCKS and I was the only mom on her way to a job outside the home! And---believe it or not---I have seen people in the neighborhood drive their kids HALF A BLOCK to the bus stop. And I've even seen one neighbor DRIVE TO HER MAIL BOX, which is at the end of her own short driveway, literally FIFTEEN STEPS away.
I definitely am taking the stairs more often than I did in past. So yes, I am trying to make my day more active whenever I can. Report
I ALWAYS park far away, much to the chagrin of some of my friends and family whenever they are in the car with me. Some of them turn into backseat drivers, "Why are you parking so far away!?" But I'm stubborn. I think it's pathetic to drive around all day, trying to find "the spot" ... by the time most people have found a close parking spot, I'm already inside my destination! Report
Your leading by example. Maybe some of those other moms that live close will catch on soon and you will have a little group of fitness walkers! Report
I love my dog. She needs to go out and burn up energy a couple of times a day. She gets me up and out. Report
I think alot of people are just plain lazy. I'm amazed in parking lots to see the number of people who drive around and drive around to find a space up close. I park way out (away from other cars) and enjoy the walk to the market as well as the walk back. I'm also amazed at who many leave their shopping carts right by their cars instead of putting them up in the cart stall. I can usually be seen pushing to or three carts all the way up. I love to walk - it's refreshing and makes you feel good about yourself! Report
I love the way my body feels when I exercise....
I feel the muscles, and hear my heart beat...
the movement of my legs and arms is stimulating to all my senses...
yes, more exercise encourages more exercise! Report
I always park further away from the entrance to wherever I'm going. Sometimes, after my workout, I climb the 10 flights of stairs to my apt rather than take the elevator. Report
I have found that the more I workout the more energy I have to complete other things through out the day. I love the feeling of accomplishment =) Report
It is always on my mind. Report
I always liked to walk and use to walk the kids to school in the morning and most of the time walked to pick them up too ,except for when it rained. Got lazy when they hit Jr High, because it was 2 houses away, around the corner and HS they took the bus. I always walked home from high school and it was a 3 mile walk one way. Report
Since buying & using my Rollator walker I have improved in walking ability from 1 block between rests to 2 miles or more. I leave my car parked for local errands, reserving it for out of town travel. This takes time but has greatly improved my quality of life, even when weather is less than ideal. Only falling snow &/or below zero windchills keep me in. Roll on! Report
Since retiring several months ago and joining SparkPeople in August, I have fallen in love with walking again! During my last two years at work, my school district had a "Fitness Challenge" where we logged how many steps we walked each day. It was not uncommon for me (a kindergarten teacher) to daily reach 18,000 or more steps. I have found that since I walk 4 miles on our county road (no sidewalks but with light traffic around 8 o'clock) almost every day of the week and am quite active on the ranch, I continue to log as many steps as I did before I retired! I love the quiet! Being active always helps me feel better and tones my body. Report
Some of the gals taking their child in the car might be on the way to work or errands. Report
Love my pedometer, it keeps me going...aiming for those 10,000 steps. Report
At the beginning of the school year I had ideological thoughts that I would walk my nephew to school most mornings and this would be a part of my daily steps. Then reality set in and getting up is a chore and getting out is a hassle. I did not want to wake him up any earlier so I get in my car and drive for two minutes just to rush him through the doors. Next week I will try to wake him up a little earlier so that we can walk and see if his day starts out any better. Consider this a qualitative research project. Report
Yes, as a regular exerciser I am more active. I get up off my desk frequently to walk to get things. I walk up and down the stairs instead of the elevator (to 3rd fl). When I plan little shopping trips, I consider (and often do) walking to the store about 3/4 mile away instead of driving. Same thing at work, if I know I can walk somewhere a few blocks to buy a snack or a lotto ticket, I do it. And I am totally conscious if I know I've missed a couple of days of exercise, to get going! It's a habit. Reminds me of when I was a girl and teen, when I lived in a city and walked everywhere...or took the bus, which also involves walking. Report
Driving is the American way. I used to work with a lady who drove everywhere. We used to joke in the office if she could park her car by her desk and drive to the copier, she would. We don't think about it is the big problem. Report
I find the more you do, the more you want to do. Report
I've made walking a part of my commute to work so walking is a regular part of my weekday routine. I take a train to a station about 30 walking minutes from my workplace and walk from there. Commuting to and from work, I walk an hour a day. Since I've been doing this, I've lost about ten pounds and I've stayed at this lower weight for the last three years. Report
I live about a mile and a half away from work and I walk almost every day (unless it's raining hard). I even walk in the snow. I enjoy the time to gear up on the way to work and to unwind on the way home with my iPod and some good walking tunes. Report
I try to take stairs wherever I am and I park at the back of parking lots, but I still have a long way to go. Report
My office is on the first floor of our building. I use the restroom on the third floor, make an entire lap around that floor and an entire lap around the second floor before I go back to my office. Sometimes I wear a pedometer. If I used the restroom closest to me, I'd only be taking 60 steps. With my "long way around", I take over 600 steps. Do that a few times in an 8-hour day and it adds up! Report
I love that I live in a condo which is close to shopping and restaurants. I love doing "functional" walks where I do as many errands as possible. Since I live in Colorado there are times when it's either too hot or too cold to do this, but the vast majority of the time is fine. Although I exercise a lot, I love getting in these smaller ways to be active! Report
I walk five miles a day, and I have found that it has increased how much I move the rest of the day. I used to find it too much effort to get up and move, but now I actually enjoy working out in the yard. Report
I just got back from Portugal and Spain, and not only did those people walk, they walked fast. My purse was stolen at the airport so I spent some time with the police in Lisbon, and practically had to jog to keep up. We saw preschool children out for an outing - walking through city streets. Elderly ladies were walking to the market for grocery shopping. Fashionably dressed ladies in sensible shoes were walking in the fashion districts. Where I live about the only people you see walking are on a track or a treadmill. Report
Since I've started wearing my pedometer, I do alot more walking. There are days I just can't get 10,000 steps in for some reason. Usually because I'm not feeling well, but most days it's my own personal challenge to see how many steps I can get in. I walk alot more to work, I park farther back in parking lots, etc. I feel so much better because of these things. Report
Last year when I began my weight loss journey I was challenged to walk anywhere I could. It took extra time, but I found that I could do it and it helped melt away the pounds! Yes, it took more time, but it was worth it!! I also saw an improvement in my mood, walking is invigorating! It gives me the chance to spend more time out of doors and enjoy the seasons. I was able to walk to the gym (a mile away) in -40 below wind chill last year with no ill effects. One just has to dress appropriately.
A few months ago I got a new bike and now I'm riding it more, but as the weather brings ice and snow I will be switching back to walking for safety.
I love this new active lifestyle I've adopted, its all win-win! Report
When my husband and I traveled to England and Scotland a few years ago, I was amazed at how many people were out walking in all conditions. We are avid hikers and we had planned to hike in the Lake District. Well, the day that we planned to hike it was foggy, drizzly and pretty cold and miserable. We went out for our planned hike anyway, because we figured we had flown over 3,000 miles to do this hike (among other things) and we weren't letting a little weather stop us. But I expected us to be the only crazy ones outside. I was shocked to see how many people were on the trails! It was the most crowded hike I've ever been on - there were FAR more people than I had seen on the most beautiful days in the US. At the end of the hike, it was pouring rain so we went into a pub for tea. There was a National Trust staff member (like the NPS in the US) standing at the end of the trail asking everyone "Did you have a nice walk?" It was so refreshing and wonderful to see so many people outside, moving, enjoying the beautiful scenery (the Lake District is one of the most stunning places I've ever seen), even on the nastiest day. I wish more people in the US did that! Report
I have to drive the 19 miles to work whether I like it or not, and I wish that weren't the case! I used to live just 10.5 miles away, so I was able to ride my bike a few days per week, weather permitting. Now, it has to be the car! But I try to stay active throughout the day, staying on my feet at work (I could sit much more than I do), walking to visit my parents instead of driving, running in my neighborhood instead of driving to the gym on weekends. (Weekdays, I go to the gym because it's right on my route to work anyway!) I don't know how much it all adds up to total, but I like to think I'm doing much better than the average! Report
Since I started wearing a pedometer almost 2 years now, I find that I actually walk alot MORE to get in my 10,000 steps. It is quite funny how much more I walk at work wearing it! I am a nurse, and often get in over 10,000 steps. Other nurse, do NOT move like I do, and most are pretty big!

It is very sad to see kids so obese today, because they do not know about moving thier bodies anymore. When I was a kid we had chores, etc. We played outdoors till dark, we had at least 3 recesses in grammar school, and P.E. was REQUIRED to graduate. WHAT happened?! Report
I've lived in one of those "other countries", Germany for 26 years and am always amazed when I'm back home in the States at the amount of driving people do instead of walking.

I've noticed, though, that there are many areas where it's almost impossible to walk although the distances are not far. City planning just doesn't allow for pedestrians in many cases: no crosswalks, no sidewalks, no signals to interrupt traffic to allow pedestrians to cross busy streets and intersections. Report
My nephew is 3 and he prefers to walk to his preschool (it's about half a mile). He's upset if he has to go in the car. They've always walked him - before he could walk they carried him.
It's more than just the exercise he gets - because he sees a lot on the route. And kids observe the little things we take for granted. As he walks along he'll see a bus, a bird, boys playing football in the park, so it's been part of his education too.

You see a lot more when you're walking then when you're whizzing by in a car. Report
Quite a bit of the time I am more active. I have managed through swapping the regimen of my gym exercises and going to random on both the treadmill and recumbant bike, I am losing faster than before. Because of this, I will continue switching around the exercises.

I make longer routes to something here at home and instead of taking everything in 1 trip, I break it up into several trips and try and get in a lap or 2 at our super WalMart. Report
I live in Australia and can honestly say I see a huge number of people out walking every day. They still have their SUVs and use them a lot - but they get out and walk - mainly for the exercise, and its contagious. When you see other people out walking you just have to join in! Report
My daughter's school is 2.5 miles away from home. This year, I walk to the school to pick her up and we walk home together. We have the option to take the bus, but if we don't, my daughter gets the bus money to put in her savings box. In the two months since we started, we've taken the bus home once. This setup is only possible because I do freelance work from home. It's definitely a time investment, but I prefer walking outdoors to the days when it's so rainy outside that I have to exercise on a treadmill. The really rainy season could be a challenge. I hope that my daughter and I can continue to walk home together regardless.

As we start moving more - whether it's with a pedometer, a training program to walk or run, or by making the time - we gain energy, and this motivates us to move more. As the pounds start to drop, it becomes easier to move more - plus, we are stronger from being more active and with practice.
So yes, becoming a regular exerciser makes me more active throughout the rest of my day.
It is helpful for people to think about what is within a short distance from their house, and start walking for things that are either easy to reach or within a short time from home. As we get better at walking, the distance can increase. I'd start with things within 1-3 blocks of home, move it to 1/2 mile, then 1 mile, and eventually to within 3 miles of home as my walking improved - even further if you add biking to the options. A great way to get to know your neighborhood better! Report
I have been trying to walk as much as possible. I have spinal cord damage and have to use a walker if I leave my apartment. I do 'laps' around the inside of my place and count the steps I take. I live in a bad neighborhood so it's kind of scary to walk around the block. Can anyone tell me how to figure out how many calories I burn based on the steps I take? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for the blog. I liked it! Report
When I was a kid my school was a half mile from home. I live in Chicago though (and did still when I was a kid) so only a month or so after school started it was way too cold to walk. I use to freeze just running down the block to my friend's to get a ride. That's one bad thing about winter. Who wants to go outside and exercise when it's 0 degrees outside. Report
I know just exactly what Jen is talking about...and am guilty of this too..but with very good reasons. I go walking at 5:30a.m. which is as dark as midnight....and, if you have not noticed, I live in Jamaica... in the city of Kingston.....not one of the safest countries in the world [unfortunately]....and, the park nearby where I link u with my walking partners is approximately a mile [at most] away from my apt....but it's never safe to walk on the or night. So as much as I am guilty of is with good reason. Persons I know have often commented that I live so near to the park and drive, but honestly, the long and short is that it is better to drive and be alive!!! Report
Oh for the old days! When I was a kid my friend that lived farthest from school was the first to start walking, he would walk to one of our gang that was between him and school and then they would walk to the next friend's house and get him and so on and soforth - by the time we got to school (on our tennis shoe bus) we had a group of about 10 kids. In those days we had P.E. (physical education) every day for the better part of an hour. Then after school we'd go home and get our bikes, or go hiking in the canyons, or have water balloon fights, play sports or just mess aroundd until dark. Needless to say we didn't have many overweight kids in those days. Report
I think my pedometer is my most important piece of fitness equipment! I put it on when I get dressed in the AM and don't take it off till I go to bed. I'll walk round and round in my house to get my 10,000 + steps if I'm short. I park farther away from the store, bring in my groceries one bag at a time, use the bathroom upstairs when I'm downstairs etc. to rack up the steps. I keep a mini trampoline in my family room and I'll run on it for ten or fifteen minutes to keep my steps up too Report
When taking my kids to school I would go for coffee in the morning. I would walk about a mile there and back. I did this twice a day. When they went to grades 1-6 I would walk them there. Most of the time my family would argue I needed to walk instead of taking a car. They themselves wouldn't do it but I would. I then went in a residential home where they fed us big meals and didn't do much exercise. I did this for 4 years. It paid a toll on me. I started exercising again and my family finds it hard to believe I do as much as I do. I'm 60 almost 61 and still going strong. Report
I find it difficult to walk in the neighborhood. There are no sidewalks. There are dogs running loose and it's 2 miles to grocery store. We do live in an age when walking isn't as safe. As a kid I went everywhere alone without any concern. I usually head to trails or walk indoors. I go to malls and walk around Walmart - it's big. You have to be creative to get the steps in. Report
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