Walking: One Step for Health… One Step for Longevity…
Matthew Buchanan, ND
According to Charles Dickens: "Walk to be healthy, walk to be happy."
Walking can improve cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress. This should be enough information to motivate all of us to walk. Sadly… The opposite is true…
I am blessed with a beautiful wife, 3 children, and 3 grandchildren. I spend quality time with each family member almost daily. I am actively involved with multiple companies. My day starts early and ends early. I’m up before the sun and fall into the sheets well after midnight. It’s all good, because as a kid I made an agreement with my parents to crack open a book and learn something if I encountered boredom. I read, read and read some more. In fact, I still read. I can honestly claim, “I know more than I can remember” and when you know stuff you formulate a plan. With a plan you set goals. With goals you take action. The perfect equation to alleviate boredom.
You’re asking what does this have to do with walking? Patience, I’ll get there…
I live on the South Plains of Texas where the wind always blows and you can watch your dog run away for three days. Our claim to fame is awesome sunsets, great people, and Friday night lights. What we don’t have are pedestrian friendly municipalities. If you want to walk or cycle in our great city you are taking your life into your own hands – literally!!! We don’t have biking lanes and sidewalks are basically nonexistent. Couple this with smart phone addicted drivers and you have the makings of a disaster.
Again, what does this have to do with walking? Well like most Americans I’m giving you the reasons why I can’t do something before I’ve considered all of the facts.
As a naturopath clients are frequently telling me, “that is too expensive… What can I do for free that will improve my health?” I simply reply, “put on your running shoes and start walking”. A simple and effective solution that is consistently ignored by those needing it the most. Life is funny that way...
According to the article Pedometer-Measured Physical Activity and Health Behaviors in U.S. Adults, Americans average 5,100 steps per day falling well short of other countries. Western Australia averages 9,695, Switzerland averages 9,650, and Japan averages 7,168 steps.1 On average it takes about 2,000 steps to walk a mile. So Americans walk on average about 2.5 miles – by comparison the health community recommends 10,000 steps daily to maintain good health.
Hundreds of medical studies show that regular exercise such as walking is good for health — very good, in fact. More than 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates said, "Walking is a man's best medicine." Is he right?
According to three Harvard studies of walking and cardiovascular health:
- Among 10,269 male graduates of Harvard College, walking at least nine miles a week was linked to a 22% lower death rate.
- Among 44,452 male health professionals, walking at least 30 minutes a day was linked to an 18% lower risk of coronary artery disease.
- Among 72,488 female nurses, walking at least three hours a week was linked to a 35% lower risk of heart attack and cardiac death and a 34% lower risk of stroke.
A meta-analysis of 48 trials in 8,946 patients showed that moderate exercise — typically walking or riding a stationary bicycle for 30 minutes three times a week — produced a 26% reduction in the risk of death from heart disease and a 20% reduction in the overall death rate.2
Walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress and also help protect against dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, colon cancer, and even erectile dysfunction.2
Ready, Set, Walk
All excuses aside. The health cost is too high not to exercise moderately or walk a minimum of 30 to 40 minutes at least 3 times weekly. As beneficial as this is, when it comes to walking 10,000 steps daily is better. One of the few times more is better.
One must change their state of mind about walking from “bleh” to "walking is awesome and great transportation".
After beginning this article with excuses – I need to come clean. Even with an overbooked schedule I actually average over 11,500 steps daily. I make it a habit to walk with my wife a minimum of three times weekly. If the time is available, we walk 5 miles otherwise 3.5 miles. We consider it a date and visit about our day, kids, grandkids, future plans, and goals. We are getting to know each other all over again and are reminded why we fell in love.
We also walk to the grocery store about half a mile away to pick up a few necessities. I always park at the back of the parking lot, take stairs as opposed to the elevator, and if time and weather permits we like to walk to our favorite restaurant. Drive thru is not even a consideration.
As with any exercise, walking burns calories. Longer distances and a moderate pace equates to more calories burned. In fact, moderate exercise is excellent for health making walking the poster boy for moderate exercise. Walk for the sake of walking and your mindset will change towards moderate exercise. With this change of thinking you will find that walking will become recreational as opposed to work.
Technology is awesome and has provided all sorts of devices to track steps. Some of these will also track heart rate, calories, active time and sleep time. Visit any sporting goods or electronics store to select the one that best fits your budget and needs.
Having the constant reminder is beneficial to achieving daily step goals.
- Always walk with a partner.
- Walk in areas that are safe.
- Follow local pedestrian laws.
- Wear clothes that are easily seen from a distance.
- Stay hydrated
Walk the Walk
Walking has it all. It is inexpensive. It is simple and natural. Walking does not require special skills and can be a great form of exercise. To be successful; start with a distance that is easily obtainable and increase that distance weekly. Soon you will be walking your way to better health. I concur, Dickens and Hippocrates were right: Walking may be the best medicine and that should make us all happy. One step for health…. One step for longevity.
1. Pedometer-Measured Physical Activity and Health Behaviors in U.S. Adults
BASSETT, DAVID R. JR.; WYATT, HOLLY R.; THOMPSON, HELEN; PETERS, JOHN C.; HILL, JAMES O
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue 10 - pp 1819-1825
2. Walking: Your Steps to Health
Harvard Health Publications – Harvard Medical School