Background: Walking distance is an important concept in the fields of transportation and public health. A distance of 0.25 miles is often used as an acceptable walking distance in U.S. research studies. Overall, research on the distance and duration of walking trips for different purposes and across different population groups remains limited.
Purpose: This study examines the prevalence of walking and distances and durations of walking trips for different purposes among U.S. residents.
Methods: The distances and durations of walking trips for different purposes across population groups were compared using nationally representative data from the 2009 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). Distance decay functions were used to summarize the distribution of walking distances and durations for different purposes and population subgroups. Data were analyzed in 2011.
Results: Sixteen percent of respondents had at least one daily walking trip. The mean and median values for walking distance were 0.7 and 0.5 miles, respectively. For walking duration, the mean and median values were 14.9 and 10 minutes. About 65% of walking trips were more than 0.25 miles in distance, and about 18% of walking trips were more than 1 mile. Large variations were found among various purposes for both distance and duration. The distances and durations of walking for recreation were substantially longer than those for other purposes. People with lower versus higher household income walked longer distances for work but shorter distances for recreation.
Conclusions: Only a small fraction of respondents walk, but trips longer than 0.25 miles are common. There is substantial variability in the distance and duration of walking trips by purpose and population subgroups. These differences have implications for developing strategies to increase physical activity through walking.
Copyright © 2012 American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.