The things I do for you people. OK, maybe it was for me.
I work from home. My daily commute is a flight of stairs. But this morning I walked 4.8 miles to my pretend office downtown. And, after putting in a full day of whatever it is I do, I walked home.
Obviously, someone besides me needs to be blamed for this idea. I’m going with Amy Arndt. She’s a writer in Austin who wrote this article in praise of walking as transportation. She described the benefits of her 3-mile walk to work, and she has some good tips.
Or, if you’d rather blame a Yankee (my default scapegoat), try Sam Schwartz. He’s a transportation consultant whose book I just read. “Walking is incredibly efficient,” he says. “Nearly a third of all car trips taken in this country are a mile or less in length—the equivalent of a 20-minute walk. Moving those trips out of cars and onto sidewalks would solve many of our transportation conundrums.”
Health professionals add more reasons for us to walk. Just 30 minutes of walking a day reduces the risk of:
- Heart disease by up to 40 percent
- Type 2 diabetes by as much as 60 percent
- Stroke by 33 percent
It’s not just physical health, either. A Duke University study concluded that a brisk 30-minute walk three times a week worked at least as well as taking the antidepressant Zoloft.
‘Why would I walk? I have a car.’
In 2012, just 2.8 percent of Americans walked to work. That’s down from 5.6 percent in 1980. With all the evidence that walking is good for us and can ease traffic congestion, why don’t we do it more?
There are dozens of valid reasons for not walking, biking or taking the bus to work. Sometimes, though, I think the overriding reason is simple: Cars are that addictive.
It hit home a few years ago when talking with a neighbor. He and his partner, both healthy and in their 40s, had built the most energy- and water-efficient house I’d ever seen. They’re smart, socially aware and health-conscious people. Yet, five days a week, he got in his car to drive to his workplace—two blocks away.
I don’t believe it ever occurred to him to walk to work. When I teased him about driving .2 miles, he grinned sheepishly and said, “Sometimes I pick up breakfast tacos.” Which I’m pretty sure was code for: “Why would I walk? I have a car.”