It doesn't take much exercise to maintain health. Several studies have shown that, and the newest is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It found that women who walked at a moderate pace through middle age were healthier in their post-70 years, and women who walked at a brisk pace regularly had even more benefits.
That's all it takes: walking. Which is why our image of an ideal healthy person -- the women on TV with six-pack abs and the gym rat men who are always guzzling protein shakes -- can sometimes be counterproductive. If you want to be really fit, you have to work out a lot, and the workouts have to be strenuous. But if you just want to avoid a heart attack, the steps are really easy.
Moreover, the studies boost lifestyle changes more than they do to gym memberships. Office workers might find bringing sneakers and walking to work or during their lunch breaks more convenient and realistic than rushing to the gym in the evening and finding an empty treadmill. It also would accomplish a lot in one blow: If everyone who lived within two miles of their workplaces walked or biked to work instead of driving, we would cut down on a lot of gas usage and emissions as well.
To encourage more walking, you can't just build excellent sidewalks and delayed lights for pedestrians to safely cross big intersections. You also need to make relatively driving less convenient. Offices could charge for parking, cities could institute congestion pricing, the price of gas could go up, etc. But those are all part of a laundry list of policies progressives and green-thinkers have wanted for a long time. Now there's just another reason to think it's a good idea.
Rep. James Oberstar addressed efforts to discourage driving in the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, but it's been delayed because of other legislative priorities. The Heritage Foundation, of course, calls this an exercise in lifestyle modification, but it ignores the fact that the country has encouraged a car-dependent lifestyle for more than half a century.
-- Monica Potts