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Alternative Transportation: Walking

It’s simple, cheap, as well as gentle on your body and the environment.

En español | After driving, walking is the most popular means of travel in the United States. It’s easy, cheap, and gentle on the body and environment.

It is recommended adults engage in physical exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five or more times a week, to maintain and improve health. If you don’t have 30 minutes to spare, break it up into shorter segments. Walking to the bus stop, train station, store or cleaners counts. The more you walk, the better you’ll feel, and you’ll be saving on gasoline and car maintenance.

While walking itself is not dangerous, there can be safety concerns. For too long, communities have been designed for motorists, with pedestrians an afterthought. For them, the results have been dangerous intersections, streets without sidewalks, and sidewalks too close to busy streets.

There are, however, things you can do to make walking a regular, safe, and enjoyable part of your routine—and a real alternative to everyday driving.

Getting Started

•    Consult your physician before beginning a new exercise routine. Start slowly, especially if you’re just starting to get back into shape, and build up your strength and endurance gradually.
•    Consider using websites such as Walkscore. The site rates the "walkability" of your neighborhood by simply adding your address.
•    Take time to warm up or cool down and stretch before and after your walk.
•    Invest in a well-fitting pair of shoes with solid support and good tread.
•    Always carry a cell phone and identification.
•    Consider using a walking stick for stability and remember to bring a bottle of water if you’re going far.
•    Dress for the weather. Wear layers if it’s cold and choose loose, light- colored clothing when it’s hot. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat and sunscreen.
•    Purchase an inexpensive step counter (pedometer) to help you track your progress. Aim for 10,000 steps a day.

Out and About

•    Use sidewalks or paths when you can. If you must walk in the road or street, face oncoming traffic so you can see and be seen by approaching motorists.
•    Wear bright-colored clothing to make yourself more visible and, if you walk at night, carry a flashlight, wear reflective clothing, choose well-lighted areas, and be alert. Turn off your music player if you use one.
•    Pick an alternate route if the street is unsafe, avoid hazardous intersections, and obey traffic signs and signals.

What you should do

More and more communities are embracing “walkability.” You can be a part of this effort and enlist others as well. One place to start is with a walking club. If there isn’t one in your community, start one. AARP’s Create The Good offers step-by-step details on how to identify local partners, build a team, and set goals.
If your area lacks facilities or services, consider becoming an advocate for improvements.  Survey the “walkability” of your neighborhood, identifying safety hazards, lack of maintenance, and other issues that might discourage pedestrians or impede access to transit stops. Tally your results and share with authorities who can find real solutions. You’ll find a step-by-step guide in AARP’s Create The Good® “Sidewalks and Streets Survey.”