Walking To Work Provides Health Benefits to Adults

This study examined health benefits, socio-economic issues and differences in urban and rural settings for adults walking to work in relation to rising obesity among children and adults in Canada. “There is a clear link between the amount of walking a person does and his or her health.” Data was drawn from the Canadian Community Health Survey conducted in 2001 and 2005. The study was done on three groups categorized as non-walkers, lower-duration walkers and high-duration walkers. It was found that mass transit walking and workplace walking programs can encourage adults to incorporate walking in their daily routine.

Canada is concerned about the increasing weight of its adult and child population. This could potentially burden the healthcare system. The link among such physical activity as walking and the control of diabetes, heart disorders and weight issues is clear. Walking to work can meet the need of physical activity in human life. Very few studies in Canada or worldwide have investigated walk as a mode of transportation to work. This research looks at trends of walking for adults between the ages of 20 and 64 in 27 urban areas as surveyed in 2001 and 2005. This notes that walking to work needs appropriate environment like proper sidewalks and safe intersections, proximity to workplace and availability of time. This paper also discusses several strategies through which an adult can be persuaded to walk to workplace as opposed to taking a vehicle or public transport.

* The data for this research was collected from the Canadian Community Health Survey, done in 2001 and 2005. This self-reported data represents the Canadian household population.
* The data collected in two different years provided the influence of time in the research.
* Two important criteria included in this research were the age of adults, bracketed between 20 and 64 years, and work status of every adult.
* Three different subgroups of non-walkers, lower-duration walkers and high-duration walkers were studied.

* From the 2005 survey no difference was found among the three subgroups in terms of diabetes or high blood pressure.
* Adults within the normal weight range were mostly high-duration walkers.
* Females and younger people were more likely to be low-duration walkers, however females were more likely to walk to work.
* In both surveys, it was found that people walk more in Toronto and some small-sized cities where urban areas are compact and do not expand into suburban satellites.
* The participants who self reported having “extremely stressful lives” were less likely to walk to work
* Interestingly, people with diabetes were 1.2 times more likely to walk to work than those without diabetes

Next steps/Shortcomings
A direct measure of distance and time associated with walking, excluding other errands, would be beneficial for people in the study. Data on physical activity was self reported; therefore, there remains the question of over or underreporting. Future research is needed to fully understand the relationship between socio-economic issues, health and other factors such as the number of vehicles in a household, having a driver license etc. The research should also be done for a longer time period

Mostly people refrain from walking to work because of the distance or lack of safe routes. Many strategies can be considered to incorporate walking into people’s daily routine and commuting schedules, so that they are motivated to walk to work.  Encouraging people to walk from their home to transit stops has shown positive outcomes. For people specifically interested in losing weight and improving their health, a walk to work program can be very helpful. Employers can also come out with innovative ideas to increase walking among its employees. Some researches have already shown that physically and psychologically healthy people can enhance the performance of an organization.

For More Information:
Walking to Work in Canada: Health Benefits, Socio-Economic Characteristics and Urban-Regional Variations
Publication Journal: BMC Public Health, April 2011
By Peter Kitchen; Allison Williams; McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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