Take the first step, make walking a priority

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Physical activity is one of the most important steps we can take to improve health — lowering risk of a chronic condition, while improving physical and mental health.

Today, an estimated 145 million adults incorporate walking because it can easily fit within a person’s schedule, budget and physical abilities. In addition, walking has the potential to reduce air pollution, better connect us with our community, and grow our local economy.

While people decide to walk, the choice can be made easier through local policy and community design, such as making streets pedestrian friendly; interconnected trail networks; building houses, shops, and other destinations together; and increasing access to public transit.

A recent survey by the American Planning Association found 56 percent of millennials and 46 percent of baby boomers want to live in more walkable neighborhoods. They are driving economic growth as employers and businesses recognize the value of locating in places that attract employees and customers — like the Czech Village/New Bohemia District in Cedar Rapids, downtown Mount Vernon, or uptown Marion.

In recent years, cities adopted “complete streets” approaches to integrate people and place in transportation networks. This enables safe, convenient and comfortable access for users of all ages and abilities, regardless of their mode of transportation.

Recent projects within the Corridor have enhanced the focus on active transportation and walkability within the region. Readers interested in learning about the walkability of their neighborhood can use the online Walk Score® tool, walkscore.com. The average score in Czech Village/NewBo is 65, Mount Vernon averages 75, and Marion is 82.

Walking is an easy and inexpensive way to improve the health of our community. Now is the time to make walking a local priority — walk to work, walk during lunch, or explore your neighborhood. If we are serious about creating connections and health in our communities, we must commit to participating and advocating for walkability. Putting off these initiatives fails to promote a culture of health.

• Rachel Schramm is a senior health education specialist at Linn County Public Health and one of 15 fellows participating in the Iowa Walking College

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