Walk, peddle – your way to better health

New Yorkers who walk to their destinations and integrate that physical activity into their daily lives report better health and fewer mental worries, according to a report from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“Just 10 minutes of exercise at a time can improve long-term health,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, NYC Health Commissioner.

The report found that 68 percent of adult New Yorkers, who live in one of the nation’s most foot-friendly cities, said they walked or biked at least 10 blocks to run errands or get to work or school during the past month, and 16 percent of working adults counted walking or biking as part of their daily commute.

“Active commuting is an excellent way to incorporate more exercise into a daily routine,” added Farley.

Defined as any “self-propelled” mode of transportation to and from work or school, active commuting includes walking, running, cycling, or even skating. In Queens, 22 percent reported mostly walking or biking to school in comparison to only 15 percent of those in Manhattan. Active commuting was found to be more common in areas where public transportation is readily accessible and also varied depending on race and ethnicity.

The study also found that people become less active with age. A mere 24 percent of 18 to 24 year olds reported fewer than 10 blocks of active travel during the past month, while the numbers steadily grew to 27 percent among 25 to 44 year olds, 34 percent among 45 to 64 year olds, and 46 percent among those 65 and older. As a result, older working New Yorkers were found to be more likely than younger ones to make active commuting a habit.

With strong links to better health and emotional well-being, physical activity in everyday life was evident in 83 percent of those who reported walking or biking at least 10 blocks each month, compared to 70 percent of those who did not. Those actively commuting also described their health as good, very good, or excellent. The study also discovered that 10 percent of New Yorkers who walk or bike for routine activities were less likely to report frequent mental distress than 14 percent of those who did not.

Here are a few tips to help you incorporate exercise into your daily routine:

• Take advantage of everyday opportunities to stay active. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk or bike to run errands or get to work, or get off the bus or subway one or two stops early to add a brisk walk to your trip.

• Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most or preferably all days (at least two and a half hours per week). You can spread your activity out over the course of the day.

• Encourage children and teens to spend at least 60 minutes a day being physically active.

• Wear a helmet while bicycling and use proper lighting at night. Children under 14 years of age are required by law to wear a helmet when cycling.

• Call 3-1-1 for information and locations of free “Shape Up New York” exercise classes or to learn more about your nearest park and recreation center.

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