At least six of the 15 leading causes of death in the U.S. in 2009 are influenced by level of physical activity:
- Heart disease
- Malignant neoplasms (cancer)
- Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke)
- Accidents (unintentional injuries)
- Diabetes mellitus (diabetes)
- Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease (hypertension)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Figure 1 shows national obesity rates coinciding with rates of active transportation (walking and biking) in various countries. The Alliance for Bicycling and Walking 2012 Benchmarking Report shows that, in the U.S., between 1966 and 2009, the number of children who bicycled or walked to school fell 75 percent while the percentage of obese children rose 276 percent. Commuting by bicycling and walking fell 66 percent between 1960 and 2009, while adult obesity levels increased by 156 percent. Physical activity can result in weight loss, improved blood circulation and cardiovascular fitness, and reduced obesity, diabetes, and blood pressure. Walking has also been shown to increase bone density.
Figure 1: National Obesity Rates were Inversely Proportional to Walking and Biking Rates (Source: Health Equitable Transportation Policy)
Case Study: Influence of Arlington, Virginia Programs
Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies employed by Arlington County Commuter Services (ACCS) programs increase physical activity by encouraging use of active transportation options (PDF), and by making connections on public transportation or trips on multiple modes more convenient. ACCS programs offer information, training, and promotion for active transportation options that make it easier for the traveler to choose a more active option. ACCS programs also help make active transportation more affordable by offering or facilitating subsidies.
The impacts of ACCS programs on physical activity may be measured as:
- Trips shifted to a more active mode
- New miles walked or biked
- New minutes walked or biked
Photo by UrbanGrammar