Spend 30 Minutes Watching This Doc and You’ll Spend the Next 30 Walking

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.

  • MarkB

    First a vitamin company does it and now Harvard medical: the essence of the “If you could take a pill…” saying is that the pill is a one-time thing, not something to “take” every day. Might as well say, “If there were a pill that would make you a graduate of Harvard medical school, would you take it?” Well, there is: just attend four years and pay $100,000 in tuition, room and board.

  • davistrain

    One common phrase that bothers me is “delivery of health care”. First of all, it was a long time ago that doctors regularly made house calls. Nowadays, the patients usually have to deliver themselves to the medical facility. And “health care” usually translates to “disease or injury treatment”. If people are feeling healthy, the usually don’t go near a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital.

  • Wanderer

    Kaiser could do a lot to improve its own practice. It could stop building hospitals in greenfield locations remote from quality transit, which it continues to do. It could join transit pass and other programs to encourage employees (and to some extent visitors and patients) to get to health care facilities by means other than driving. It’s nice that Kaiser supports videos championing walking, but Kaiser is a big institutional actor that could do a lot more.

  • I just wrote an article for a different group about new more people-centered hospitals and one of my sources says Kaiser requires that method.

  • Wanderer

    Angie, i don’t know what Kaiser is doing elsewhere. In the Bay Area they are building a hospital in a suburban industrial area adjacent to a freeway, at a location with essentially no bus service (hourly lines). The city has required them to run a shuttle to the nearest BART station, but it’s easy to see that this is a hardly a situation that will facilitating walking. At the same time, Kaiser has refused to consider transit pass programs for its employees, arguing that any benefit given at one of its hospitals must be given at all of them, no matter how different the circumstances.

  • Anonymous

    The Palo Alto Medical Foundation in the SF Bay Area has its headquarters and most of its facilities near transit, either Caltrain and/or the frequent bus service on El Camino Real. I don’t know how much it played into site selection, but it certainly gives people more travel options, especially for the elderly who spend more time at doctor’s offices.

  • Koray Sahin

    Wanderer is correct. Whatever Kaiser’s policies are, in practice they do not prioritize human-scale architecture, walkability and transit access. Look at Kaiser Santa Clara (opened in 2007) on Google maps. It’s a huge parking lot with a hospital in the middle. The main entrance faces an expressway. Even when I drive there, it’s dehumanizing.

    It is served by only two bus lines. One is strictly a commuter line, running twice per day per direction, weekdays only. The other runs every 30 minutes… on weekdays. On Saturday it’s only once/hour from 9:30 to 4:30.

    Want to get to the hospital on Sunday? Sorry. Evenings? Sorry. If you’re taking the bus, try to schedule your emergency room visits on weekdays during business hours. Good luck getting home if you’re discharged at the wrong time

    I know that part of this is the fault of VTA, Santa Clara county, and the city of Santa Clara for not providing good transit. The reason I’m griping is because they could have located near El Camino (which has frequent bus service) or Caltrain. Their old location was a 15 minute walk from El Camino. The new location is a huge step away from transit accessibility and human-scale architecture.

  • Anjaba

    I do not suppose it ever occurred to you that sick and disabled people do not want to take public transit to their medical facility because they are sick! Also I worked in several large Chicago hospitals and while we supposedly have the best public transit, I never took it to work because, I did not want to. My work was stressful and physically demanding and the least, I could do for myself was not stand on corners in the snow, cold and heat. If not why was I working?

  • Anonymous

    Dunno, after a demanding day I prefer veging out on the train vs distracted/tired/dangerous driving.

    Keeping the elderly car dependent is dangerous for them and for the rest of us.

  • Koray Sahin

    What about poor people? And poor sick/disabled/elderly people? If they can’t bum a car ride, they’re on the bus. If their bus stop is a 30 min. walk (for a young, healthy person) from the hospital what do they do?

    In Chicago, I would guess they’d probably prefer to shiver in a bus shelter rather than hike through a blizzard (assuming they are capable). Most of KP’s locations are in California, so heat stroke might be a bigger concern.

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