PDA

View Full Version : "The average American walks only 1.4 miles PER WEEK" Can this possibly be true?


owlstretchingtime
10-08-2002, 01:04 PM
I recently read this in a Bill Bryson book (so I'm not treating it as holy writ).

He states that the USA is now so pedestrian unfriendly that no one walks anywhere. Ever.

How can you possibly only manage 1.4 miles a week though?

I must walk at least that a day, and I'm no fitness fanatic, simply walking to and from stations etc.

So is it true?

scout1222
10-08-2002, 01:09 PM
"simply walking to and from stations"

That implies you take some kind of mass transit.

I drive to work. So my walking commute is down the stairs into the garage at home, and then from the parking garage at work up the two flights to my desk. I suspect in a lot of the US, this isn't uncommon. Only large cities have mass transit, and only some large cities have decent enough systems in which many people participate.

So I'm not surprised. Although, I think with the walking to the water fountain, bathroom, cafeteria, and to others' office, I should probably get at least a mile in a week, but I've never checked it out.

I am D Izzy
10-08-2002, 01:20 PM
I know the average American isn't a student, or teacher... Just about every student (and teacher) I've seen walks a lot. We have to (I'm a student... Poor me) just to get around campus etcetera (did I spell it right?). The amount of people on school grounds walking around must bring that to at least 10 miles a week... C'mon... Right?:rolleyes:

Johnny L.A.
10-08-2002, 01:35 PM
What about walking just to walk? The large outdoor mall near where I work is maybe a quarter mile away. We usually walk over at about 15:00 and walk around it just to get out of the office for half an hour.

Sometimes I'll walk around the block (okay, several blocks) before work. Distance: About 1.6 miles. Although I've been lazy lately, it was a daily routine. (And now that I've stopped logging on in the morning, I'll have time to start it up again.)

Obviously I'm not the only one who gets "out and about" on foot. As mentioned before, there are students out there who walk all over the place. My friends in New Orleans walk just about everywhere. Kids run around a lot while they play. I find it hard to believe that the average American only walks 1.4 miles per week.

ftg
10-08-2002, 02:39 PM
I can believe it. First of all, there's a lot of more or less homebound people. Esp. the very elderly. Suff like that skews the stats easily. Throw in some kids under 1, etc. and you're Mathematically halfway there. There rest from ...

I walk over a mile a day for exercise. I routinely see people pulling up to their driveways who stop, in their cars to get their mail, and then finish pulling in. These are people in their 20's and 30's who don't want to walk the length of their short driveways. Extrapolate that kind of mentality to all day long and .2 of a mile per day seems about right.

To me, walking is one of the simplest exercises most people can do. Esp. as you get older, it helps avoid a lot with circulation problems. My motto is "walk or die". Learn to walk everywhere when young so it's second nature when older.

Dragonblink
10-08-2002, 03:40 PM
In Southern California, walking rarely does you any good. I walk a fair bit, because I have no car, but I'm fortunate enough to live within walking distance of both my work and my school. There are students here who live where I do (two blocks from campus) and still drive to class every day.

UrbanChic
10-08-2002, 03:53 PM
owl, I'm not surprised at all. When I didn't live withing walking distance to work, I had to find time to walk. That's not an easy thing when you've got a family with young children and you're not getting home until after 6:30 in the evening. Dinner sure as hell ain't gonna make itself!

Now, I walk about a mile and a quarter every work day. When we move from downtown I'm sure that will decrease dramatically, though. Hopefully, we'll move close enough so that the drive home will be short. If I get home at a decent time, I'll walk after work.

Otto
10-08-2002, 05:19 PM
I'm doing my bit to raise the national average. I do two miles a day on the treadmill. I go at lunch on work days and to the gym on weekends. Takes about a half-hour a day. But I don't walk much otherwise so I can see where the average could be pretty low.

doreen
10-08-2002, 05:21 PM
I can believe it. First of all, there's a lot of more or less homebound people. Esp. the very elderly. Suff like that skews the stats easily. Throw in some kids under 1, etc. and you're Mathematically halfway there. There rest from ...

I can believe coming up with a figure of 1.4 miles a week if you include those who can't walk- but that would make it an utterly useless statistic.


But
owl, I'm not surprised at all. When I didn't live withing walking distance to work, I had to find time to walk. That's not an easy thing when you've got a family with young children and you're not getting home until after 6:30 in the evening. Dinner sure as hell ain't gonna make itself!

I may be unusual, but even though I drive to work, I estimate I walk more than two miles a day just getting to and from the car, making trips to the copy machine,fax machine,restrooms, other offices, and then doing chores when I get home. Or was Bryson's statistic not counting that sort of walking, only out on the street walking?

Rhum Runner
10-08-2002, 05:44 PM
1.4 miles/week = 1.4(5280) = 7392 feet/week
7392 feet/wk = 1056 feet per day
1056 feet ~ 352 steps. (assuming 3' per step)

352 steps, per day? No way that the average American is not walking more than this just moving around their own house in 16 hours of being awake. I can believe that the average is low, but not this low.

YWalker
10-08-2002, 06:09 PM
As you might guess, I'm very fond of walking.

From time to time, I wear a pedometer just to keep track of how active I am being. This is actually a very good fitness awareness program ---- looking at the count at the end of the day is a good wake up call to tell you if you're not doing enough.

A popular general fitness program challenges people to fit in 10,000 steps a day. For a lot of people, this is a good bit more than they usually do.

Before jumping right up to 10,000 steps, the program recommends that you wear the pedometer for a few days just to see what your "baseline" activity gives you.

Mine, with no intentionally added walking or exercise (I took it off for those) is around 4,000 steps per day or so. This is just the walking around the house getting dressed, fixing meals, doing general household stuff, plus general walking around the office at work.

When I try to guesstimate my mileage equivalent at the end of the day, I generally give myself credit for a mile for every 2500 steps per day (since a mile is 5280 feet, and my stride length is around 2')

Unless the average is skewed by a LOT of homebound elderly, I would say that 1.4 miles per week is just way too low.

I'm doing my part to skew it to the other side --- I average around 14,000 - 18,000 steps per day.

screech-owl
10-08-2002, 07:04 PM
Well this little owl does about 3-4 miles walking daily even after the walking done on my new job (yay!). I made it a point to exercise with a good brisk walk after work (often still in my business suit and heels), and I'm gonna continue my regime.

I feel good. And better about myself.

Ferrous
10-08-2002, 07:11 PM
I walk probably 2-3 miles a day, sometimes more. But I walk a lot more than most people I know, so yeah, I can believe that average.

Rhum Runner
10-08-2002, 07:35 PM
Originally posted by Ferrous
I walk probably 2-3 miles a day, sometimes more. But I walk a lot more than most people I know, so yeah, I can believe that average.
You can believe that the average american takes fewer than 500 steps a day? You walk 2-3 miles a day, we are talking 400 yards here, in a whole day. And that's every day of the year. Unless, as someone suggests, this number is counting all the babies and elderly (and even then I doubt itk) I can't believe it is true.

scout1222
10-08-2002, 07:41 PM
owlstretchingtime - since we're a bit in doubt, does Bryson provide any detail about that statistic? [i.e. if it includes infants, housebound, etc.]

Clearly we know that there are some lazy and/or immobile people out there, but as YWalker says, just moving about the office should give us some distance every day.

--scout, who runs ~30-35 miles a week - does that count???

scout1222
10-08-2002, 07:44 PM
Interestingly, I just found this statistic from the APMA:

"According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, most Americans log 75,000 miles on their feet by the time they reach the age of 50. Serious Striders -- those whose professions or lifestyles involve using their feet more than the norm -- reach the milestone much sooner."

Cite: http://www.apma.org/75M.htm

If that's true, assuming you start walking at 1, that's about 1,531 miles per year. At 365 days a year, that comes out to 4.2 miles per day.

Woah, that's a big difference. Curious....

scout1222
10-08-2002, 07:57 PM
Okay, one last time from me.

From the Dept of Transportation: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/safety/fourthlevel/pdf/Case15.pdf

Annual walking miles averaged across Americans 5 and over: 88-190 miles per year, or 2-4 miles per person per week. (figures are for 1991)

[this is on page 15 of the study The Environmental Benefits of Bicycling and Walking, just in case the link doesn't work]

ultrafilter
10-08-2002, 08:00 PM
I can think of an interpretation of the statistic under which it could be correct, but even that's doubtful. Instead of averaging across all Americans, one could obtain the statistic by looking at demographics, constructing a portrait of the average American, and seeing how much they walk. Not quite what we're expecting, but I don't think it's incredibly misleading.

scout1222
10-08-2002, 08:00 PM
Okay, I lied, because I forgot to add:

They specifically excluded the short, unquantifiable trips to and from parking lots, in and around the office, etc. I guess because they probably couldn't figure out how to measure it. So that would be in addition to the 88-190 miles.

Even without it, though, they're coming up with a figure higher than Bryson's.

Okay, I'm really going to stop now, because it's time to go out for a run... :)

ultrafilter
10-08-2002, 08:25 PM
Also, Bryson's figure may only take into account walking as a form of transportation when other options are available. So walking around the house or the office wouldn't count.

Colophon
10-08-2002, 08:37 PM
I read that book a while back and I must admit that statistic boggled my brain. I have it right here, actually. What caused even more bogglement was this passage:

Not long after we moved here, we had the people next door round for dinner and -- I swear this is true -- they drove.

I was astounded (I recall asking them jokingly if they used a light aircraft to get to the supermarket, which simply drew blank looks and the mental scratching of my name from all future invitation lists), but I have since come to the realisation that there was nothing especially odd in their driving less than a couple of hundred feet to visit us. Nobody walks anywhere in America nowadays.

Can this be true? Or was the pressure of a column to fill leading ol' Bill to stretch the truth a little?

Anyway, Bryson credits the 1.4 miles a week statistic to "a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley". He adds: "85% of people in the United States are 'essentially' sedentary and 35% are 'totally sedentary'. The average American walks less than 75 miles a year -- about 1.4 miles a week, barely 350 yards a day. I'm no stranger to sloth myself, but that's appallingly little. I rack up more mileage than that just looking for the channel changer."

:D I love Bryson's writing... for an American he seems to have a very British sense of humour. I get the impression he's more popular over here (the UK) than in the US, chiefly because the Americans don't like his making fun of them. Is that true?

Motog
10-09-2002, 03:51 AM
Here's (http://blueprint.bluecrossmn.com/topic/bryson)a link to entire Bill Bryson article for those who are interested.

Colophon
10-09-2002, 06:29 AM
Weird. That link misses out the whole first two paragraphs, which I quoted from the book above. Maybe Bill now admits it was BS, and expunged it from the record ;)

bifar
10-09-2002, 06:58 AM
In my experience Bryson never lets facts get in the way of his opinion. He often cites secondary evidence, such as a survey he read in some UK newspaper or that a friend of him told him about. He knows that people in the UK like to feel superior to ugly Americans, so he tells them that all Americans are all fat and stupid. Im fond of his writing style but the reason why hes so popular is that he panders to popular opinion.

Barbarian
10-09-2002, 08:50 AM
I be polite and say Americans aren't stupid :D -- but y'all are definitely fat.

The U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey is being released this week by the CDC. It should be on their website, or at www.jama.com

It shows that roughly 30 percent of Americans are overweight, with an additional 29 % being obese, and about 5% more being morbidly obese.

That means 2/3 of American adults weigh more than they should. Some ethnic groups are even heavier-- with African American women approaching a 50% obesity rate.

With that many heavy people, and a population around 300 million, it's easy to see that even if every american Doper ran a marathon every day you could still get a 1.4 mile/week national average for walking.

Kamelion
10-09-2002, 09:16 AM
Well I'm Australian and I'd say I'd easliy get that distance in a day walking....
But I'm a student and I have to.
Our school is pretty scattered and on a day I might have classes on both far sides of the school. Add to that going to lunch and back twice, you've got 1.4 miles *easily* in a day, let alone a week.

But then if you live in an office, and your whole day including lunch is in the same place... I can see how you wouldn't get it so easily...

I also live in a very small town and am on the opposite side of town to the school - and I can still ride there on a bicycle in five minutes.

So I'd say I actually travel more distance via bike or foot than via car (excluding those days when I have to leave town and travel 60 kilometres plus to get to the next big one!)

Rhum Runner
10-09-2002, 09:24 AM
Originally posted by Barbarian
With that many heavy people, and a population around 300 million, it's easy to see that even if every american Doper ran a marathon every day you could still get a 1.4 mile/week national average for walking.
No, it is not easy to see. Being overweight does not mean bed-ridden. The 1.4 number equates to less than 400 yards per day, seven days a week. There is no way the averrage is that low. I havn't counted, but just this morning walking around my apartment I bet I have done an easy 100 yards of walking. This is in 1 hour of being awake, in a small apartment. Many people walk miles and miles per day, to bring the average down to less than 1/4 mile per day we would need 10s of people just sitting in a nutrient tank for every one of those that walks.

This number is wrong.

yabob
10-09-2002, 10:47 AM
The number is probably not attempting to estimate the distance walking around your house or place of employment, or, for that matter, inside grocery stores or malls. The number probably came from a survey that only questioned how far people walked outside, for recreation, or as a mode of transit between two points.

yabob
10-09-2002, 10:52 AM
The number is probably not attempting to estimate the distance walking around your house or place of employment, or, for that matter, inside grocery stores or malls. The number probably came from a survey that only questioned how far people walked outside, for recreation, or as a mode of transit between two points.

Corrvin
10-09-2002, 11:26 AM
With that many heavy people, and a population around 300 million, it's easy to see that even if every american Doper ran a marathon every day you could still get a 1.4 mile/week national average for walking.

Well, considering that every really overweight person I know walks for fitness (because, frankly, it's too tough on the joints to do anything more strenuous with a lot of extra weight) I don't see why a group composed of heavier people might not walk MORE than a group composed of lighter people, who possibly play tennis or basketball or act in porn films or something for their exercise.

Corr

owlstretchingtime
10-09-2002, 12:34 PM
The statistic was quoted in terms of Bill Bryson walking (some of) the Appalachian TRail.

It was followed by his (funny) description of attempting to walk about half a mile to a restaurant and finding it next to impossible as the town had been laid out to make being a pedestrian impossible.

I took it to mean walking to and from work, shops, bars etc rather than purely recreational walking or wandering around one's house (I have walked further than 1.4 miles in my flat looking for my keys).

It is also mentioned in the context of the number of human zeppelins in America (the first thing ANY foreigner notices when we come to the USA).

owl

Barbarian
10-09-2002, 04:41 PM
Originally posted by Corrvin


Well, considering that every really overweight person I know walks for fitness
Really? Every overweight person I know drives to the convenience store to buy more junk food. Even if it's less than 2 blocks.

In fact, my mother once yelled at me (many, many years ago) because I walked to the store to get some milk, instead of driving.

Look at the numbers. About 100 million Americans are overweight. Another 100 million are obese. They didn't get that way by taking the stairs.

flapcats
10-10-2002, 06:39 PM
Can we get Mr Bryson to see this and cite?

I cycle to work, I probably don't *walk* that many miles. My SO is going to climb up Machu Picchu for charity - So I get about 10 - 15 miles in every weekend supporting her training etc.
Apart from that, I sit at my desk like a monkey.

ook! I must get a few miles in at the studio though: Desk, server, desk, server, pub, desk, server, pub etc - it's at least 5 meters. (to the server, not the pub.)

amarinth
10-10-2002, 07:37 PM
Originally posted by yabob
The number is probably not attempting to estimate the distance walking around your house or place of employment, or, for that matter, inside grocery stores or malls. The number probably came from a survey that only questioned how far people walked outside, for recreation, or as a mode of transit between two points. Well, then, I could see it.
No, I probably walk less than a mile/week for recreation or as a mode of transportation.
I work 10 miles from home (because it can't be walked along the driving route, add another 4 miles if I chose to walk or bike it). My grocery store is 2 miles from home. Most places I shop for other goods/services are at least 2 miles from where I live. My friends do not live in my neighborhood - so, they're of sufficient distance to drive somewhere to meet them or drive to their places. My work is about a mile from anywhere so I'll drive my errands at lunch. (When I worked somewhere more centrally located, I walked a lot more). And I hate walking for recreation (though I averagely run about 15 miles a week for fitness/recreation).
So, yes, if walking only counts if it is done as a mode of transportation - then, it is not improbable that many people like me don't do it.