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Good Reads: Why Americans Don't Walk (And Why They Should)

Good Reads: Why Americans Don't Walk (And Why They Should)

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

walking, slate, tom vanderbilt, reporting on health, health journalism, pedestrian, obesity, community health

A Slate series of articles that unpacks walking – its health benefits, its decline in the United States, and whether we can ever get back to putting one leg in front of another – is well worth your time this week.

Here's how series author Tom Vanderbilt, author of "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do," defines what walking in America has become:

An act dwelling in the margins, an almost hidden narrative running beneath the main vehicular text. Indeed, the semantics of the term pedestrian would be a mere curiosity, but for one fact: America is a country that has forgotten how to walk. Witness, for example, the existence of "Everybody Walk!," the "Campaign to Get America Walking" (one of a number of such initiatives). While its aims are entirely legitimate, its motives no doubt earnest, the idea that that we, this species that first hoisted itself into the world of bipedalism nearly 4 million years ago-for reasons that are still debated-should now need "walking tips," have to make "walking plans" or use a "mobile app" to "discover" walking trails near us or build our "walking histories," strikes me as a world-historical tragedy.

For walking is the ultimate "mobile app." Here are just some of the benefits, physical, cognitive and otherwise, that it bestows: Walking six miles a week was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's (and I'm not just talking about walking in the "Walk to End Alzheimers"); walking can help improve your child's academic performance; make you smarter; reduce depression; lower blood pressure; even raise one's self-esteem." And, most important, though perhaps least appreciated in the modern age, walking is the only travel mode that gets you from Point A to Point B on your own steam, with no additional equipment or fuel required, from the wobbly threshold of toddlerhood to the wobbly cusp of senility.

I'll be reading Vanderbilt's forthcoming segments this week with high interest, particularly the one on determining your "walk score." I'm more desk-bound now than I used to be, and I'm guessing my score's not so great. Is yours?

Photo credit: o5com via Flickr

Comments

Picture of Angilee Shah

My family hates it, but I pace a lot when I'm on the phone. Maybe that's helping? Related is this story about how young people aren't buying as many cars as their parents.

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[...] Barbara Feder Ostrov: Good Reads: Why Americans Don’t Walk (And Why They Should) [...]

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