On behalf of the American College of Sports Medicine, I applaud Nancy Keates’ article A Walker’s Guide to Home Buying from the July 2, 2010 edition of The Wall Street Journal). Moreover, we admire those who are considering the walkability of a neighborhood in their home search.
The article highlights a number of excellent reasons homebuyers are considering walkability including convenience, safety, the aging U.S. population and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. However, another huge benefit that isn’t mentioned is the impact of walkable communities on health and fitness. A daily regimen of walking is a simple way to get a recommended daily dosage of physical activity. (ACSM recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day.)
Walkability and a built environment that promotes physical activity are critical for cities to promote a healthy and fit lifestyle among residents. In fact, we’ve incorporated data into ACSM’s American Fitness Index annual report that evaluates such efforts. The report reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, health care access, and community resources and policies that support physical activity.
While walkable communities may be gaining interest in real estate transactions for the various reasons mentioned in Ms. Keates’ article, we hope more Americans will recognize the impact a walkable neighborhood can have on their health, too. We support not only communities’ efforts to promote walkability, but all infrastructure, community assets, policies and opportunities that encourage folks to live a healthy and fit lifestyle.
Walt Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM
Chair, ACSM American Fitness Index Advisory Board
Regents Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health, Georgia State University