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CDC Vital Signs: Walking Among Adults — United States, 2005 and 2010 Telebriefing

Tuesday, August 7 at Noon ET

OPERATOR: Good morning and thank you all for standing by.  This is the conference coordinator.  All lines will be placed on listen only until we're ready for the question and answer session of today's call.  This call is also being recorded.  If you have any objections, please disconnect at this time.  I would now like to introduce your speaker, Mr. Tom skinner.  You may begin sir. Thank you. 

TOM SKINNER: Thank you all for joining us today for the release of the latest vital signs from the CDC.  This one is on walking among adults United States 2005 and 2010.  With us today is the director of the CDC, Dr. Thomas Frieden, who will provide some opening remarks of three to five minutes in length.  And then we'll get to your question and answers.  And when we get to the question and answers Dr. Frieden will be joined by Dr. Joan Dorn who is from the CDC’s Physical Activity and Health Branch.  She'll be available to assist with questions.  So at this time, I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Frieden. 

TOM FRIEDEN: Good morning.  Thanks very much for joining us.  The basic news today is that physical activity is the wonder drug.  And I’ll go into some of the things it does to make people healthier and happier and more Americans are making a great first step in getting more physical activity.  Specifically 15 million more Americans were walking in 2010 compared to 2005.  Walking is a great first step and walking for just ten minutes a week is a great way to get started in meeting your 2 1/2 hours a week of physical activity. 

Overall, only about 48% of Americans say that they get that 2 1/2 hours a week of physical activity, but for those who do, physical activity really is a wonder drug.  It makes you healthier and happier, you live longer, you have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,  a lower risk of diabetes, and cancer. A lower risk of falls and depression, a lower risk of cognitive decline as you get older and probably a lower risk of hip fracture and better sleep, as well.  So I would say that there is really no single drug that can do anything like what regular physical activity does.  And that's why it really is the wonder drug.  In fact even if you don't lose any weight, getting regular physical activity will decrease your risk of getting sick, it will decrease your risk of getting diabetes, it will decrease your risk of getting high blood pressure, cancer, and a host of many other conditions. 

So walking turns out to be the easiest most accessible, most popular way that Americans get physical activity.  It doesn't have to cost anything.  You don't have to join a gym.  You don't have to change your clothes before or after.  It's something that virtually everyone can do.  And taking a brisk walk, a walk that's brisk enough for you to get a little bit winded, is a great way to get physical activity.  And more and more Americans are getting that form of physical activity.  In fact, of those who do at least one ten minute walk a week, 60% meet the guidelines for that 2 1/2 hours a week of physical activity.  That's much higher than the proportion who don't get at least one -- don't have at least one ten minute walk per week.  In fact, walkers were nearly three times more likely to meet the guidelines than nonwalkers.  And really walking is possible for just about everyone.  It doesn't require special skills, you can do to get places and do things.  And I think with physical activity, one of the key concepts is to do something that you enjoy so it's something you are going to keep doing or do something you need to do like walk to work or walk to the store.  You have to build it into your regular routine and that's the way to make it part of your life.  It's not just going to be one effort that will last a couple of days or weeks or months, but something that you'll keep doing throughout your life.  And of course walking is something that most will be able to do for most of their lives.  In order for communities to support people in walking more, there are important things that can be done. 

It's important that people have safe and accessible options for walking and other physical activities.  That means for example creating or improving access to walking paths or trails around work sites, have work sites establish  places to walk, have joint use agreements which is a joint use agreement between schools and communities so that school tracks can be used in non-school hours.  Communities across the country are doing that and that's making a big difference.  And designing communities so that jobs and schools and housing, stores are located within walking distance. 

There are two key groups in increasing the availability of places to walk.  One are state and local government leadership for planning and promoting and redesigning or improving streets that are safe for walkers, and the second are employers.  Because people spend so much of their time at work encouraging walking during breaks, supporting walking groups and places to change if needed and creating or identifying walking paths near work, all are very important.  There are some great examples around the country.  Places like Nashville, Tennessee, where a program led by the mayor has led to community members logging in more than 100,000 miles of walking.  Or Topeka, Kansas, where there are regular walks to libraries or farmers markets or fitness events that can make a really big difference in people's lives.  Also we're seeing in this report geographic changes.  So while walking is most common in the west where more than two-thirds of people walk more than any other region in the country, people in the south who have traditionally had higher rates of obesity and higher rates of heart disease and stroke actually had the highest percentage increase in the proportion of people who walk, up 8 percentage points from about 49% in 2005 to about 57% in 2010.  With increased walking, real progress is possible.  With better spaces and better places for people to walk, we can see this great beginning become even more progress as more people walk  and people who do walk more.  So it's significant progress today that we're reporting.  More people getting physical activity, physical activity being key for health and walking being the easiest most accessible way of people getting physical activity. 

TOM SKINNER: Lori, I believe we're ready for questions, please. 

OPERATOR: Thank you, sir.  At this time if you would like to ask a question, please press star one.  You will be prompted to record your name.  Press star one to ask a question.  Press star two to withdraw your request.  One moment, please, for the first question.  Our first question comes from David Beasley with Reuters. 

DAVID BEASLEY: Yes.  Are these numbers extrapolated out to reflect the entire population of the US adult population, and if so, I was wondering is there any kind of margin of error one way or the other, in terms of how accurate the extrapolation would be? 

TOM FRIEDEN:  Sure.  The survey is large, so the margin of error is small.  They are extrapolated to cover the entire population and the way we would put it is that the confidence intervals don't overlap.  So we're confident that this is a real increase in what people reported as their walking activity.  Dr. Dorn, I don't know if you want to add to that. 

JOAN DORN: No, just that the confidence intervals for the percent of people walking in 2010, that the prevalence was 62% and the confidence interval that Dr.  Frieden said is quite narrow at 61.1% to 62.9%. So, this is a 6.3% increase.

DAVID BEASLEY: Okay.  Thanks. 

TOM SKINNER: Next question, Lori. 

OPERATOR: Thank you.  Our next question comes from Jennifer Davis with the Arthritis Today. 

JENNIFER DAVIS: Hi, there.  Thank you.  I was wondering if you could tell me what you think about some of the breakdowns particularly in terms of the gender differences and some of the sub-groups, like people with arthritis. 

JOAN DORN: This is Dorn.  Great question.  We're pretty consistent in the increases.  We saw increases in all age groups, across all race and ethnicity groups, across all education level, in most regions of the United States, across all levels of body mass index and we even saw increases in people with reported documented arthritis.  In fact amongst people with arthritis the increase was about 4.1%.  So the findings are very robust. 

TOM FRIEDEN: And that's another piece of good news that often when we see health improvements, they're not equally distributed across all the communities.  But in this case, perhaps because walking is so accessible, we're seeing increases in all parts of the country, all age groups, all races and ethnicities, all educational levels.  So this is good news that's really across the board. 

TOM SKINNER: Next question, Lori. 

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Kristain Foden Venvil with Oregon Public Broadcasting. 

KRISTAIN FODEN VENVIL: Hi, I just wondered whether you had any numbers for Oregon or the pacific northwest that you could single out for me and tell us how we're doing up here. 

TOM SKINNER:  We don't have those right now, but if you call the CDC press office, we may be able to get you more specific numbers.  But it may take always extrapolating.  But if you want to call the CDC press office, we may be able to help you. 

KRISTAIN FODEN VENVIL: All right.  Thanks. 

TOM SKINNER: Next question, Lori. 

OPERATOR:  Again, if you would like to ask a question, please press star one.  You will be prompted to record your name.  One moment, sir.  I am showing no questionS. 

TOM FRIEDEN:  So thank you all very much for joining us this afternoon or this morning depending on where you are.  Bottom line again, a good start, a good first step, 15 million more Americans walking and walking is the most accessible easiest way for people to get physical activity.  A lot more Americans are doing that and those who walk at least ten minutes even once a week are three times as likely to get the 2 1/2 hours they need of physical activity per week and physical activity really is the wonder drug to keep us healthy and happy.  Thank you all very much for joining us. 

TOM SKINNER: Thank you, Lori.  This concludes our call.   If you have follow-up questions, you can call the CDC press office, again 404-639-3286. Thank you very much.  

OPERATOR: Thank you that does conclude today's conference call.  Thank you for joining.  You may disconnect at this time.  

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