Good for Your HealthGood for Your Health

Ideally, people should take 10,000 steps a day to maintain wellness. But for those who only walk from their home to the car and from their car to an office and back again, that figure can sink to only 1,000 steps.

Obesity and heart disease are two of many problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Car dependence makes it harder to get the 75 minutes of intense weekly exercise or the 150 minutes of moderate exercise the government recommends.

Lawrence Frank of the University of British Columbia has quantified the link between the distance people drive each day and their body weight. "Every additional 30 minutes spent in a car each day translates into a 3 percent greater chance of being obese," he said. "People who live in neighborhoods with a mix of shops and businesses within easy walking [or cycling] distance are 7 percent less likely to be obese."

Think about this: a 150-pound cyclist burns 410 calories while pedaling 12 miles in an hour-almost the equivalent calories of a McDonald's Quarter Pounder®. Walking, aside from being enjoyable, is also excellent therapy for people suffering from back pain and also helps relieve problems with the joints.

With skyrocketing healthcare costs damaging every sector of our economy, bicycling and walking aren't just smart ways to lose a couple pounds. They're necessary to battle an ingrained sedentary culture that is, quite literally, making us sick.