You’re referring to findings from Ohio State University showing that people who walked to specific destinations – for example, to work or the supermarket – felt that their health was more improved than people who walked mostly for leisure. This conclusion came from an analysis of self-reported health assessments from 125,885 adults aged 18 to 64 who noted how much time they spent walking for different purposes – from home to work, for shopping, or to recreational activities, as well as trips that didn’t start at home.
“We found that walking for utilitarian purposes significantly improves your health, and that those types of walking trips are easier to bring into your daily routine,” said study leader Gulsah Akar, an associate professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State. The study participants ranked how healthy they felt on a scale of one to five. After analyzing more than 500,000 trips, the researchers concluded that walking for any duration, for any purpose, increased how healthy a person felt.
They also reported that an additional 10 minutes of walking from home for work-based trips – say, from an individual’s house to a bus stop 10 minutes away – increased the odds of having a higher health score by six percent compared with people who walk for other reasons. Those who walked from home for reasons unrelated to work such as shopping or recreation were 3 percent more likely to have a higher health score.
The researchers also reported that people who walked in connection with their work walked faster – on average about 2.7 miles per hour – than people who walked for other reasons. Those who walked for recreational purposes averaged about 2.55 miles per hour.
The study also found that walking trips beginning at home generally last longer than trips that start elsewhere; 64 percent of home-based walking trips last at least 10 minutes, while only 50 percent of trips that begin elsewhere are at least that long.
Ms. Akar said she had thought that walking is walking, and all forms are helpful. nonetheless, the study concluded that walking for some specific purposes may have significantly greater effect on our perception of health than others.
I view walking as an ideal daily exercise for a wide variety of reasons – including its beneficial impact on body, mind and spirit! Walking as a way to get daily exercise can help support major organ systems in the body, promote bone density, boost the immune system, and lead to a more positive outlook.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Gulsah Akar et al, “Effects of walking on self-assessed health status: Links between walking, trip purposes and health.” Journal of Transport & Health, September 2020, doi.org/10.1016/j.jth.2020.100901