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Survey: More Americans Walk for Exercise During Pandemic

A growing body of evidence suggests that, in addition to improving circulation and bone strength, regular walking also can boost mental health. (Adobe Stock)
A growing body of evidence suggests that, in addition to improving circulation and bone strength, regular walking also can boost mental health. (Adobe Stock)

August 12, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- More Americans say walking has been their preferred method of exercise since the pandemic began, according to a new survey by UnitedHealthcare. One in five adults says COVID-19 also has prompted them to reach for healthier foods and improve their eating habits.

Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer for UnitedHealthcare, said research shows walking has numerous benefits, including preventing bone loss, improving circulation and even lowering the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Madsen added that three-quarters of baby boomers surveyed said they walk regularly.

"This is really good news because, first of all, it's a great way to stay healthy," she said, and second of all, it's a COVID-friendly activity. It's something you can do as a solo activity, but you can also do it with a friend and still maintain social distancing."

According to cdc.gov2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 32% of Kentucky adults reported not engaging in any form of regular physical activity. Another, older study found that in rural areas of Appalachia, physical inactivity rates are much higher - due in part to lack of access to sidewalks, recreational facilities and organized group exercise.

Madsen said employer-sponsored wellness programs can encourage families to keep up healthy behaviors.

"If you offer a program, make sure that it focuses on things that are really easy and accessible for consumers around walking, diet, etc.," she said, "and if you don't offer a program, now would be a great time to do it, because we know health matters more than ever."

The survey found more than 77% of respondents who had access to employer wellness programs said the initiatives have positively affected their health. Wellness programs also helped 17% of respondents manage a chronic condition, such as diabetes, or helped detect a medical condition.

The survey is online at newsroom.uhc.com, the CDC data is at cdc.gov, and the rural Kentucky study is at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

Disclosure: United Healthcare's IN-KY Region contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY