By Allison White

There appears to be an awakening among Americans that personal health and wellness needs to become a top priority. Our busy work a day lifestyles complete with long commutes, short grab-and-go lunch breaks and no time for exercise are literally killing us.

The U.S. Surgeon General last week called on Americans to start walking routinely. “Walk. Promote walking. Make it safe and easy to walk,” urged U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

In his report: Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities, Dr. Murthy insists that communities across the United States need to better support walking by building communities that are safe and convenient places for walking.

It is hoped that this will help combat the nation’s obesity epidemic. One out of every two U.S. adults is over-weight or obese and is living with a related chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes. These diseases contribute to disability, premature death and huge health care costs.

Increasing physical activity through walking is one of the most important steps people can take to decrease risk of developing chronic diseases, the report said.

Most Americans want to live in the kind of places the Surgeon General is calling for where they can walk everywhere, including work. Real estate located in walkable neighborhoods near restaurants, shops and grocery stores comes at a premium.

One of the biggest challenges ahead will be to construct networks of sidewalks and bike/hike trails that connect outlying neighborhoods to the “premium” walkable centers that offer shopping, entertainment and attractions. This network needs safe, unbroken sidewalks (meaning they don’t abruptly end without a connection in sight), and numerous well-marked crosswalks.