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People are Healthier in States Where More People Bike and Walk to Work

Image: Walkable and Livable Communities (WALC) Institute Image: Walkable and Livable Communities (WALC) Institute

Providing opportunities for regular physical activity, such as walking and bicycling, can make a big impact on improving public health and life expectancy. And we have the data to prove it. The quantified health benefits of biking or walking for transportation can outweigh the risks by as much as 77 to 1. Biking and walking add more years to our lives than are lost from inhaled air pollution and traffic injuries. Our daily mode of travel has a great impact on our health as a society. Fifty percent of trips in the U.S. are three miles or shorter, and over 25% of our trips are less than one mile. Yet as many as 69% of those short trips are taken in private motorized vehicles. In comparison, only half of the U.S. population gets the recommended weekly amount of aerobic physical activity. One-third of the population is overweight and another one-third is obese. Active transportation not only improves our physical health, but also our mental well-being and ability to focus. A recent study of Danish children showed that those who bicycled to school were better able to concentrate. In fact, walking and bicycling to school had a stronger impact on a child’s ability to focus than having breakfast and lunch. The physical activity associated with walking or bicycling to school advanced the child’s mental alertness to the equivalent of a student half a year further in their studies. In the Alliance for Biking & Walking's analysis of transportation and public health data, we found a strong relationship between statewide percentages of bicycling and walking to work and key public health indicators. To learn about the five ways that biking and walking serve as public health indicators and see the data behind them, check out the full post at the Alliance for Biking & Walking.