Lazy Britons are missing out on the joy of walking | Phil Daoust

Half of us are reluctant to get on our feet for more than 20 minutes. Compared to the progress made on cycling, for walkers it’s been pedestrian. Thanks to a combination of hypermobility and underinvestment, even the shortest journey can take you to hell and back. Just like cyclists, pedestrians must find a sense of self-righteousness Zoe Williams Zoe Williams Read more The thing is, it’s partly our fault. We’ve become so used to the idea that getting anywhere requires machinery, even if it’s something as basic as a bike, that many of us have forgotten the original means of transport. That’s right – our feet.

A survey by the charity Living Streets, reported this morning, finds that almost half of Britons are unwilling to walk for 20 minutes, while a 2014 National Travel Survey, found that walking in England has fallen by almost a third since the mid-1990s. It’s still the most popular way to cover distances of up to a mile, but beyond that we’d rather take the car, train or bus. If you’re not sure how long it takes to walk a mile, the route-planning website suggests 20 minutes at a medium pace. In other words, if it would take us longer to walk somewhere than to cook a portion of oven chips, the vast majority of us can’t be arsed.

At a time of growing obesity and air pollution, we’d rather burn fuel and conserve our fat reserves. If you’re a walker yourself, it’s depressing to sit on a bus and watch apparently healthy people travel just one or two stops (and I write as someone whose mother used to get in the car to visit the next-door neighbour.) You can’t help wondering how long they’ll stay well. In addition to obesity, walking has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, asthma, strokes and some cancers.

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