Why walking part-way to work may be better for you than a casual stroll

Benefits from taking a walk may depend on your destination, according to a new study from The Ohio State University.

Doctors concerned about your health suggest getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly.

“When you walk with a purpose, you will be walking faster, which increases the intensity of your physical activity,” said Gulsah Akar, professor of city and regional planning at The Ohio State University.

Referencing the study published in the Journal of Transport and Health, Akar said walkers perceived themselves to be in better health if most walks were purpose-driven to places like work or the grocery store versus walking mostly for leisure.

The study involved data from more than 125,000 participants in the 2017 National Household Travel Survey, who were asked to rank their health on a scale of 1 (very poor) through 5 (excellent).

Those routinely walking, even 10 minutes to a bus stop for work, increased the odds of having a 6% higher self-reported health score than people walking for other reasons.

Whatever the motivation or destination, Akar said there is no downside.

“All else being equal — those who walk tend to feel healthier,” Akar said. “All walking counts.”

She noted that following through with exercise goals is easier when activities are embedded into your schedule, such as commuting to work.

“It doesn’t cost you anything, it doesn’t need any new skills, and it doesn’t need extra planning,” Akar said. “Instead of setting aside separate time going to a gym or setting aside separate times for recreational activities.”

Akar also said that planners and decision-makers could support home-based trips that include people walking in their neighborhoods.

“We should consider building sidewalks. We can consider building rest areas for commutes and other walking trips, which tend to be longer in distance and duration,” Akar said. “We can also encourage development patterns in neighborhoods where residents can reach various destinations within short distances and integrate walking into daily routines. Then they will walk more, and this will increase their health.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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