Why Does Walkability Matter?

Walkability is one of the most important components of a healthy community. According to studies performed by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and Nemours Health and Prevention Services, nearly two-thirds of Delaware’s population is overweight or obese, which can be attributed to physical inactivity and poor diet. BRFSS addresses physical-activity indicators through questions of type, duration, and frequency of physical activity performed at work and during leisure time.

The survey showed the following results:An infographic illustrating the amount of physical activity Delawareans engage in. The graphic compares Delaware residents to the rest of the country as well as providing statistics about the amount of physical activity both Delaware adults and children engage in.

  • 49% of Delaware adults engage in at least the minimal recommended amount of aerobic physical activity.
  • 31% of Delaware adults engage in the recommended amount of muscle strengthening physical activity.
  • 20% of Delaware adults engage in the recommended amounts of both aerobic and muscle strengthening physical activity.
  • 27% of Delaware adults engage in no leisure time physical activity.
  • 2.5% of Delaware adults regularly bike or walk to work.

With the exception of meeting the muscle strengthening guidelines, Delaware ranks worse than the national average in each of the above measures of physical activity.

Creating opportunities for an active lifestyle can increase the proportion of residents reaching at least moderate physical activity. Walking is one of the easiest ways to maintain functional fitness. For adults, 30 minutes of walking five days a week will significantly reduce adult risk of developing a host of diseases, ranging from cancer to depression. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents get twice that amount of activity daily. They should engage in at least 1 hour of aerobic activity each day.

The WHYY TV video segment, “Exercise by Accident,” aired on the weekly show First for Friday. The video features Delaware Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay, who explains how the Delaware Coalition for Healthy Eating and Active Living (DE HEAL) is working to increase physical activity and walkable communities. University of Delaware IPA Planner B.J. DeCoursey details how better community design can help people “exercise by accident.”

For a humorous take on the problems posed by places that aren’t walkable, please view this Buzzfeed article: 5 Times Walkable Infrastructure Just Didn’t Work For Pedestrians.

How walkable is your neighborhood?  Find out at www.walkscore.com.

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