Sidewalks, curb cuts, crosswalks, safe crossings for the visually impaired, proper lighting and more green spaces all lead to communities that encourage walking, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., MBA, says in the newly released Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities. The report stresses the need for the creation of more areas for walking and wheelchair rolling as well as for the maintenance of existing spaces that promote such physical activity.

“We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity — such as brisk walking — can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” Murthy said in a statement. “The key is to get started, because even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.”

Efforts can extend beyond the design of communities, the surgeon general says, although community design is important. Senior living communities can promote the health effects of exercise and establish programs that encourage it among residents. Employers, the surgeon general says, can educate staff members about the benefits of walking and can offer worksite programs (such as walking clubs and competitions) and policies (such as flex time, paid activity breaks and discounts to exercise facilities) that support walking and walkability among employees.