IN SUPERSIZE ME, Morgan Spurlock followed an average American diet and exercise regime for an entire month, during which time he nearly succeeded in pickling his liver and put on an impressive 30 pounds. What is the average number of steps walked a day by an adult American? According to Spurlock, it's approximately 5,000. However, that number is seriously bouyed by places like New York. The national average would, I bet, plummt to something more like 2,500 if you factor out such cities. In fact, I remember one scene where he tallies daily just 1,500 steps quite regularly while in Texas. Not that it really matters since 5,000 is still considered sedentary.
So how many steps, approximately, do need to take a day? Studies say... 10,000. How do other countries fair compared to our paltry figures?
As expected, better. Much better. Miles better.
To understand why it's hard for Americans to fit those steps in, just look at our urban planning. Most people must drive to retail parks outside of town for their groceries, homegoods or to do basic social activities like eat a meal out or see a movie. That can be the case too, with some semi-urban developments in the UK, but rest assured that the complete demise of the high street hasn't hit there yet. In the US, it did quite a long time ago.
American cities were built around the car – some don't even have pavements (sidewalks). Chicago is scored with highways, as is LA, Detroit and many other cities. New York is an exception to the car-bound rule, where it's public transit is still top notch (San Fran is a bit similar).
And, sadly, quite often police officers are suspect of lone men and women walking around. Tales from my foreign friends talking walks in LA, for example, always end with the officer pulling over, rolling down the window and asking the perfectly innocent – and unharmed – foreigner if they need help. Why? Because they were, god forbid, walking.
So, you see, Americans live in landscapes designed to keep people in the house, the store or the car. There's no getting lost in the winding cobble-stoned streets of the Marais on the way to the Saturday market or a leisurely post dinner stroll down the promenade. Instead, you walk 25 steps from buffet to the car, then, once at home in the garage, another 25 steps to your door... and about 15 to the couch.
Naturally, I've employed some generalizing.
There will always be a contingent who take just public transit (even if there are only a dozen stops, like in LA), or who ride a bike everywhere. But these people are the exception. Not the norm. I've known people to drive TWO BLOCKS (not even the length of two football fields) to work, and that is probably deemed less unusual than walking a mile to get somewhere.
In fact, I know it is.
In Savannah, GA with my husband this past June, my husband and I had a nice breakfast with another couple staying at our same B&B. We discussed our dinner plans to walk to a nearby (1 mile far) restaurant. Our new friends looked at us with a mix of curiosity and horror. They gave us the number to the cab service they'd been using, which we accepted with no intention of using. They both shook their heads as if we were hopeless.
The ones who want to walk to get our food and then digest it on a walk back.
To be continued tomorrow...