Thanks to the warmer weather, many of us have ditched our morning SEPTA commute, opting to ride our bikes or walk to work instead. And, according to a new report released by the Alliance for Biking & Walking, this is exactly the type of behavior that leads to healthier cities: The report found that many cities with higher percentages of biking and walking commuters experience lower levels of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Unfortunately, this trend doesn’t hold true for Philadelphia.
The report, based on data from 2011 and 2012, documented the bicycling and walking trends for all 50 states, along with the 50 most populous cities and 17 mid-size cities. The report found that the cities with the highest obesity rates, Memphis and Detroit, also have some of the lowest biking and walking rates, at 2.1 percent for Memphis and 3.4 percent for Detroit. On the other hand, the cities with the lowest combined level of obesity, San Francisco and Oakland, had above-average walking and biking rates, at 13.1 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively.
Here’s the thing: While Philly comes in eighth in cities with a high percentage of walking and biking commuters — 10.7 percent of the population bikes or walks to work, putting us right below New York City — the city still experiences an above-average obesity rate, at 26.9 percent. And what’s even more interesting is this: While, many of the top 10 cities for biking and commuting also rank in the top 10 when it comes to cities getting the recommended percent of physical activity, Philadelphia comes in at a lowly 27 in that category. Even with such a high percentage of biking and walking commuters, only half of the folks in Philadelphia are meeting the weekly recommended minimum for physical activity. Yikes!
So while Philadelphia’s high ranking in cities for bikers and walkers is wonderful news, especially on Earth Day, the question still remains: How the heck can we get more people moving on the daily? Any thoughts, Be Wellers?
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