What is the best way to stay healthy? It’s exercise! Moving is the best option for fitness and better overall physical and mental health . Even for the time challenged, you still have a most powerful weapon to improve your health with walking.
This still could be your healthiest and most inspirational winter season yet. Now before you start thinking of an excuse, like it’s too complicated, too time-consuming and costly, or takes too much time, small changes make a big difference. What I would say to that is: start walking. Walking is a wonderful solution. There’s no cost and you can walk anywhere:
- Walk inside your home or office, while you simultaneously take care of other business.
- Walk to do errands, opting to park your car in the furthest spot from your destination
- Ask your partner to drop you off a mile from your home, so you can walk the rest of the way
Lifetime of Running Transitions to Walking
These are all simple ways to add steps to your otherwise more sedentary routine. I too used to think that exercise meant extreme or nothing. Here is my story.
My personal exercise journey started as a runner, not a walker. The phrase “long distance running” took on a whole new meaning for me. It didn’t mean 26.2 mile marathons, I ran a 1,420 mile solo run to Canada, and 3,000 miles across the USA, twice no less!
But one evening during my commute – a run home from my naturopathic medical practice – I felt pain pulsing through my knee. Sadly, I tore my left meniscus. I was naturally deflated and very disappointed. I worked toward a relentlessly positive attitude, followed by strong determination and a lot of physical therapy. In the end, I embraced a new exercise routine focused on walking. And lots of it.
I have spent my life and medical career encouraging others to develop an exercise routine. Throughout our life we need to adapt to circumstances and practice both resiliency, determination and grace in order to stay healthy. And, as COVID has taught us, a positive attitude is essential. In my case, I decided to “light a candle” and walk, rather than “curse the darkness” and complain about my running injury.
So how much walking is enough? You’ve no doubt hear of the goal of taking 10,000 steps a day. A recent study in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) found that, compared with taking 4,000 steps per day, taking 8,000 steps per day was associated with a whopping 51% lower risk for all-cause mortality. Taking 12,000 steps per day was associated with a 65% lower risk compared with taking 4,000 steps.
Now, at every opportunity, I walk. Typically, my job as a primary care naturopathic doctor entails a lot of sitting. You may have heard the saying, “sitting is the new smoking,” which is based on research that shows sitting all day, even if exercising vigorously before or after work, is still a significant risk factor for early death.
I can’t always get outside. So, I walk in my 10×10 office while answering emails, talking on the phone, watching the news, listening to virtual medical conferences, texting, and even reading a book or posting on social media.
Even with a knee injury, I’ve been able to average twice as many steps per day as I did when I was running with a healthy knee. To double the distance from walking to running, I must now quadruple the amount of time walking. My 2020 average is close to 17,000 steps per day. Not bad for a guy who gave up running because of a bum knee.
While in the past, running in the past scenic areas been a huge part of my life. The endorphins were a huge part of my life, Today, swimming in beautiful lakes and feeling the rush of walking has become my go-to pleasurable activity. I have grown to appreciate its simplicity, practicality and immediacy.
Staying Fit Now and After the Holidays
To accommodate my new routine into my daily schedule, I have honed my multi-tasking skills. I couldn’t to this without two important items to keep track of my daily walking habit: 1. a smart-phone with heart app that records steps walked (a simple pedometer will do) and, 2. a handy phone charger. Recording steps throughout the day, on whatever device, helps keep me motivated.
So, this holiday season, between wrapping gifts, baking healthy muffins, or spending time with family, keep walking around the neighborhood, in the snow, through the commercials on a holiday movie, or in your own home or office setting.
I am living proof that exercise can be done anywhere. With fluctuating Covid-19 restrictions closing gyms and recreation centers, walking at home, at the office, or in public places (with masks please) is an easy solution. You’ll be modeling your brain for a positive attitude and your dedication for health is one of the best gifts of all. By focusing on staying fit now and after the holidays, you could change your health for the better, forever. You can even give the gift others by walking together outside (physically distancing) or even inviting others to a Zoom walk. Giving others the gift of health is the best gift of all.
For more on how the radical life changing effects of exercise, see this webinar by Michelle Simon, ND and Mark Heisig, ND. Learn how to practically incorporate movement into your day.
Dr. Dennis Godby, is a license naturopathic doctor, at Sutter Medical Foundation. He may be reached SAC-ND.com , Facebook or at his Sacramento Office, 916. 446-2591.
INM's team is made up of naturopathic doctors and health journalists.