Every Body Walk!, the new campaign spearheaded by Kaiser Permanente and a host of other organizations — including the Office of the Surgeon General — is on fire. Two weeks after hosting its first sold-out conference in Washington, DC, the campaign has put out this excellent documentary on the importance of integrating walking into our daily lives.
It includes tips on things like mall walking and parking in the farthest-away space in the lot, but at the heart of the documentary (and the campaign) is a focus on healthy cities and transportation systems that encourage physical activity. Every Body Walk! recommends 30 minutes of moderate-to-brisk walking, five days a week, for a 30-40 percent decrease in cardiovascular problems and a whole host of other ailments, from diabetes to dementia.
“If there were a pill that people could take that would nearly cut in half their risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes; reduce the risk of cognitive decline and depression; reduce stress; improve emotional well-being — everyone would be clamoring to take it,” said Harvard Medical School’s Dr. JoAnn Manson in the documentary. “It would be flying off the shelves. That magic potion really is available to everyone in the form of 30 minutes a day of brisk walking.” More and more, doctors are literally prescribing walking to treat all of these conditions.
The film laments that “we’ve engineered movement and energy expenditure out of modern life” and chronicles the rise of the auto-dependent suburban landscape. They promote transit, which often involves a walking trip at the beginning and end — “Walk to the bus 15 minutes there, 15 minutes home and there’s 30 minutes [of physical activity]: Bingo, you got it!” — as well as the basic building blocks of walkability: sidewalks, awnings, tree planting, crosswalks, traffic calming.
It also focuses a spotlight on “medication as the core of medicine,” a mindset they say needs to be changed. Former U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin says, the country is “shifting away from looking at health as disease and illness and toward looking at health as wellness and prevention.” It’s inspiring to see health officials embracing active transportation — and changes to the built environment to enable it — as an integral part of creating a healthier community, country and planet.