“Did you just walk there!?” Is a question I hear frequently now that I’m living in Portland, Oregon.
In a city where more than 17,000 workers choose to bike to work everyday, it’s almost comical that everyone seems to avoid transportation via their own two feet.
Moving from a city like Boston, where everyone walks everywhere, to Portland, where the average person is impressed if you’re willing to walk more than 6-blocks, highlighted a possible reason why people who live in big cities are on average thinner- walking. According to an article by the International Business Times that tracked the amount of walking per-state via FitBit, New York is the most active state in the U.S year-round, followed by Minnesota, Wisconsin and Massachusetts.
A survey of state obesity rates conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention shows the correlation between an active lifestyle and its effects on obesity rates, (obese meaning a body mass index, BMI, of 30 or higher). The states that walked the most according to the FitBit survey were all in the top 20 least obese states. The top five least obese states were Colorado (21.3%), Hawaii (22.1%), Massachusetts (23.3%), California (24.7%) and Vermont (24.8%).
All of the top least obese states have one thing in common, an active lifestyle. From surfing in Hawaii to skiing in Colorado people are finding ways to get active.
Scrolling down the list of the least obese states, Oregon didn’t even make the top 20, with a 27.9% obesity rate. Although Oregon is far from being the fattest state, Arkansas at 35.9%, Oregon and almost every other state could benefit from their citizens being a little more active.
So why aren’t other states picking up their feet? There are huge variations in terms of lifestyle, culture, and landscape between states. It’s easier to walk around a densely populated city where everything is located reasonably close by. Lack of parking in big cities can also render a car more of a nuisance than a necessity. Whereas in the suburbs, where the closest grocery store is 10 miles away, having access to a car is a must.
So What Can You Do to Be More Active?
You don’t need to walk 10 miles a day, but making small daily changes can have a big impact on the amount of exercise you get, without going to the gym!
Some of these minor daily changes seem like no brainers, like taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator (±10 calories burned per flight), going for a walk during your lunch break (±100 calories). If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, walk or ride your bike to your destination if it’s located within a mile, if not, park a little farther away from the entrance (note: this may upset other passengers).
You can also break a sweat while staying productive. Doing your own yard work and house cleaning will give you a sneaky good work-out, and save you money! Mopping the floors is a great shoulder and core exercise, and pushing that lawn mover around is great for your legs, back, shoulders and arms.
The general rule of thumb is, think active. The more you take the stairs, the more you walk, and the more you stay active in general, the more likely you will develop healthy habits. Once you form habits you won’t be having internal battles with yourself over taking the stairs, because you won’t even think about the elevator. Healthy habits lead to healthier lifestyles, which ultimately leads to happier people with smaller waistlines.
WHAT THE DOCTOR SAYS:
While the cause of obesity is complex, there is no denying the role of inactivity. A 2014 Stanford study found that as Americans became more obese in the preceding decade, their caloric intake was stable but their physical activity levels had decreased. Exercise has value beyond weight control. A recent study found that among obese Americans, mortality is lowest for the most active, suggesting that exercise is of value regardless of body mass.