In a nation of too many overweight people, a simple form of exercise demands more attention.

Americans used to go on long walks as a matter of routine. Children headed to school on foot, and adults walked to work, the grocery store and other places.

As communities spread out and more people started driving from place to place, walking fell out of favor — and with it went an automatic way to exercise each day.

Today’s more sedentary lifestyle, meanwhile, has taken a toll in weight-related health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.

A staggering number of the nation’s adults (38 percent) are considered obese, as are 17 percent of teenagers. Roughly another third of all Americans are overweight.

It’s a dangerous and costly trend headed in the wrong direction.

Simply walking a brisk 30 minutes a day is a major step toward weight loss and better health, and should be seen as a beneficial family activity.

Considering as much, communities should help pave the way to wellness.

Local initiatives to make Garden City more walker-friendly have included plans for the growth of “pedestrian connections” in trails and sidewalks.

Recent news centered on a trail project from Third Street to Campus Drive, north of Pioneer Road.

The proposed Pioneer Pathway was among Transportation Alternatives Program projects selected across the state. The federal program in part supports funding for walking and bicycling paths.

The city will invest $61,600 of the more than $300,000 total cost of the project, which is a bargain of an investment considering the potential return.

Communities have a responsibility to create the most pedestrian-friendly environments possible. Cities with as much become more appealing places to live and work.

When it’s complete, the Pioneer Pathway will add to local quality of life, in part to help citizens interested in maintaining or improving their health.

Of course, it’s not necessary to wait for this particular pathway to come to fruition. Opportunities to pursue a good walk abound in Garden City — the Talley Trail and pathway around Lee Richardson Zoo would be prime examples.

Local residents should take advantage in moving toward longer, healthier lives.