(CBS News) More Americans are walking these days, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It found that 62 percent of Americans said they walked for at least once for 10 minutes during the week, up from 56 percent of people five years ago.
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While the news is a step in the right direction for boosting America's health and fighting the obesity epidemic, the CDC's report also found that less than one-half of Americans engage in the minimum-recommended 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of physical activity each week.
"It is encouraging to see these increases in the number of adults who are now walking," Dr. Joan M. Dorn, chief of the physical activity and health in the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, said in a press release. "But there is still room for improvement. People need more safe and convenient places to walk."
The report - published in the CDC's August 2012 Vital Signs - showed that women and older adults were less likely to get the recommended weekly amount of physical activity. The highest percentage of walkers live in the West and Northeast, but the South showed the biggest percentage increase in its number of adults who walk compared with other areas.
More adults with arthritis and high blood pressure have taken up walking since 2005, but rates haven't improved for people with Type 2 diabetes, the report found.
The CDC says moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, could provide major health benefits. People who are physically active are at lower risk for obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression and some cancers.
Recent research suggests that daily physical activity could also protect against Alzheimer's disease, even in elderly adults over 80. The new CDC report found increases in walking rates for adults over 65.
Another recent study found minimizing the amount of time you spend sitting to less than 3 hours each day could boost a person's life expectancy by two years.
Branch said people will walk more where they feel safe from traffic crime. She calls on local communities to redesign areas to "make it easier for people to walk to the places they need and want to go."
The CDC recommends maintaining surfaces to allow people to walk without fear of falling, or creating walking routes in and near neighborhoods that connect to stops for buses, trains and trolleys. It also says employers should consider creating walking paths around or near the work place, and calls on citizens to step up their participation in local planning efforts to find sites for new walking paths.
"More than 145 million adults are now getting some of their physical activity by walking," CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, said in the press release. "Having more places for people to walk in our communities will help us continue to see increases in walking, the most popular form of physical activity among American adults.