National Academy of Medicine

Walking Our Way to Better Health

By George Halvorson
January 27, 2012 | Commentary

We are spending 2.8 trillion dollars each year in the United States on health care—far more than any other country in the world.

Interestingly, more than 75 percent of that sum is going toward chronic diseases. Chronic conditions can actually be prevented.

Chronic diseases have two main behavioral causes—unhealthy eating and unhealthy inactivity. Knowing that to be true, what opportunities do we have to make behavioral changes that can actually improve health? The good news is we can remedy inactivity fairly easily.

When you look at all of the options available for improving health, the analysis points to one behavioral change that has both the highest potential to have an impact and the highest potential to actually be done by people. That high-impact, high-potential behavior is—very simply—walking.

The human body is made to walk—and we do not walk enough in America today.

Note

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.