The Decline of Walking


Chloe Wong, Staff Writer

For most of us, life in quarantine is boring, repetitive, and dull: we wake up, sit down at a computer to attend work or school, move around once or twice an hour, and then, you guessed it, sit down again. Ever since going outside became a risky endeavor, we have less reason to get up and enter the real world. Moving around at all has become a trial in and of itself.

Simply put, people just don’t walk like they used to. It’s no wonder that in March 2020, shortly after quarantine began, Fitbit reported that its American users’ steps were down by as much as 12% compared to the same period in 2019. Other countries were even worse in contrast: Fitbit customers in Spain walked 38% less than they used to, while in Italy, steps were down nearly 25% (granted, Americans are already far more sedentary than their European counterparts).

Pandemic regulations have shut down malls, arenas, and other places previously filled with bustling life; it’s also just safer to drive somewhere instead of risking infection in a sea of foot traffic. While locals in the U.K. have seen a recent uptick in pedestrians, there’s no doubt that walking has somewhat lost its place in the world. But what are the benefits of walking? And why should we be worried that fewer people are making time in their day for a stroll?

Walking is something that we do every day; indeed, it’s as natural as breathing. We walk from room to room, classroom to classroom, door to door, and most of the time, we don’t even think about it. Yet 30 minutes of daily walking helps to strengthen your bones, increase cardiovascular fitness, reduce excess fat, and boost muscle power along with your overall endurance. Walking is also proven to stave off heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. It bolsters your mood, provides respite from the outside world (especially in a time as chaotic as this), and is an underrated yet essential aspect of our overall health. Even a simple stroll in your backyard and a breath of fresh air can improve your mental health: those who are physically active have a 30% reduced risk of becoming depressed.

“Walking can be as good as a workout, if not better, than running,” Dr. Matt Tanneberg, a sports Chiropractor and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, said in an interview to NBC. “You hear of people ‘plateauing’ when they continue to do the same workout routine and stop seeing results. I see patients all the time that plateau from running, they will run the same distance, speed and time, day in and day out. You need to constantly be switching up your exercise routine in order to get the maximum benefit for your health.”

To say it plainly, walking is crucial. And while you don’t have to take a hike every single day, or run a marathon while masked, consider taking time out of your schedule to take a stroll around the neighborhood (or anywhere else you can remain safe and socially distanced). Think of it as an act of fitness and self-care. For now, it’s the closest we’re ever going to get to a vacation.

Photo courtesy of WSJ.COM