But the report also highlights a need for many more Americans to join the movement. It shows only 48 percent of Americans are getting the government-recommended two-and-a-half hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, like brisk walking.

Calling physical activity a “wonder drug,” Dr. Frieden stressed that getting the recommended amount of physical activity is important because it decreases a person’s risk of developing a range of physical and mental health problems, from heart disease and diabetes to depression and cognitive decline. For people with arthritis especially, walking and other physical activity can reduce pain and improve function and quality of life.

“We’re excited that people with arthritis are walking more,” says Patience White, MD, the Arthritis Foundation’s vice president for public health. “But we really now need to focus on people with arthritis to bring them up to the national average or better.”

The CDC says individuals can do their part; one way is to start walking groups with friends. But there is a larger role for communities, too.

The CDC report calls on communities to explore a variety of ways to encourage walking – by creating safe walking paths, for instance, or opening school tracks to the public once the school day is finished.

“If you want to walk and there’s no park, you’re probably not going to do it,” Dr. White says. “This [Arthritis Foundation] report is about what can be changed in the environment to make physical activity a positive choice for someone with arthritis. You want to make the healthy choice the easy choice. You don’t want to make it hard for people who finally make the decision to be physically active, and walking is a popular choice.”

Dr. White recommends that if a person is inspired to walk more talk it over with a doctor first. The Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease program is a great place to start, she adds.