Walking and exercising more can help us improve our health, but how can we find opportunities to walk more in our daily lives?
Research shows that people will walk more if they live in an area where potential jobs are within walking distance, or there is reliable public transportation located close by that are easily accessible.
What factors get us walking?
There was a study between 2012 and 2014 that looked at walking behaviors in approximately 5,000 adults in Melbourne, Australia.
The study examined levels of access that pedestrians typically had to reach their destinations. They looked at how close the destinations were to their homes, places of employment, and places where people studied. It looked at libraries, supermarkets, cafes, and stores within half of these locations.
On an average day, when there is good local accessibility, people walked for around 12 minutes, and people with limited access walked for only 7 minutes.
People who had places to go that were within walking distance from their homes walked five minutes or more a day compared with those who did not have destinations close by their homes.
People with the destination close to where they worked walked an average of nine minutes more than those who did not have places of interest near their workplaces.
More research needed to be done for people who enjoyed walking beyond just getting to what was locally accessible.
Using public transportation, we compared people’s travel commuter time driving from where they lived, worked, and studied with a 30-minute radius. We found that when people had better access to resources in the area, they preferred to walk.
When accounting for people who worked within a 30-minute trip by public transportation, they walked more than 4 minutes on average more than people who were further away from their place of employment.
People who live in areas where public transportation is more efficient than driving a car walked more than 7 minutes a day. This is in comparison to people with reduced access to public transportation.
Encouraging people to walk more
Another study looked at both local and regional access to see if encouragement could help people with walking.
People who were fortunate enough to have local access and public transportation available close to their neighborhoods generally experienced more opportunities and benefits from walking.
These factors had people walking around ten minutes more on an average day. People who use public transportation often tend to walk more than people who drive their cars.
Public transportation encourages people to walk more because it is necessary. People are generally dropped off around their destination and have to walk the remainder of the trip. This factor promotes walking.
When people walk more to stores, the post office, or a library, and rely on public transportation to get to their job, they tend to walk more often than do people who are driving.
A message to city planners
All of these studies tell us a simple and useful message.
Encouraging people to walk more and helping them restore their health lies in the way that cities and residential areas are designed. It also depends on reliable sources of public transportation that provides accessibility to where people need to go.
New developments need to support more walkable destinations that can encourage people to walk more and get more exercise: locations and accessibility matters when it comes to people and walking.
Businesses should be located close to where people live, and shops, post offices, libraries, schools, and public transportation stops need to give people lots of good reasons to walk more.