Reboot Camp Post #3: I’m Actually Moving, and It Feels Pretty Good!
After years of non-stop sitting, with only intermittent fits of exercise, I clearly need to move. Yes, it will help weight loss, but there’s a bigger issue: healthy aging.
In the past few years, I’ve felt more sluggish. Last year’s physical revealed that my LDL (“bad”) cholesterol was creeping up. I have no more muscle tone in any part of my body beyond my right arm, which has worked hard at lifting food into my mouth all these years. And then there’s the ever-looming threat of osteoporosis.
The need to move is clear, but for me, this reality had to be balanced by that old Greek proverb, etched in the stone at The Temple of Delphi: “Know Thyself.” And I know myself well enough to know I need to find methods for moving that feel easy and fun. I confess, I’m looking for the most gain with the least pain.
Walking certainly fits the bill. In fact, a Mayo Clinic article on walking says, “And you can forget the ‘no pain, no gain’ talk. Research shows that regular, brisk walking can reduce the risk of heart attack by the same amount as more vigorous exercise, such as jogging.”
Health Benefits of Walking
- It’s gentle on the joints and low impact–minimal risk of injury.
- It can reduce the risk of certain cancers (including breast cancer).
- It can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
- It can turn the tables on cholesterol levels, reducing your “bad” LDL and raising the “good” HDL levels.
- It can help prevent osteoporosis.
- It helps with weight loss.
To get the most from a walking program, health professionals recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of walking, five days a week. That’s pretty reasonable, isn’t it? I mean, who can’t find 2-1/2 hours/week to move?
Bonus Benefit: My Happiness Quotient Is Way Up
It may be a subjective measurement, but after four weeks of walking I can say that I’m happy when I walk, and I’m happy after I walk. I adore walking with friends (Martha on Sundays, Adrienne on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays). I’m tickled to bring my dog Freida on most walks. I love that Austin has beautiful walking/hiking trails.
I’m back out in the real world with much greater frequency and reminded that there beautiful birds and bugs and flowers. Yes, we’re having a beautiful spring here in Austin, but I’d be missing it altogether without these walks. I’ve even discovered some fascinating little neighborhoods near me that I never paid attention to in 10 years’ of living here.
Minimal Gear Needed to Walk
It doesn’t take much to get going. You need a good pair of shoes. Everyone agrees on this, by the way, and a future post will share what you need to know to find the right shoe for you.
Beyond that, it helps to have some way of tracking your progress. Here are three ways you might track your walks:
- Duration of walk: All you need is a watch for this. Thirty minutes is thirty minutes, isn’t it?
- Number of steps: In 2004, the first reports emerged suggesting that active people take 10,000 steps each day (about 2 miles). A pedometer can help you track your steps–not just on a walk, but all through the day–and are easy to find at any sporting goods store. I tried this iPhone pedometer app and simply wasn’t able to calibrate it accurately. Argh, boo, argh–completely frustrating.
- Distance walked: If you walk area roads, drive your route to calculate your regular distance. If you walk park trails, check your park’s department’s website to see if trail distances are available (example here). And if you’ve got an iPhone, I’d recommend the Pedometer PRO GPS+ app. Beyond the pedometer’s features, the GPS functionality will tell you exactly how much ground you’ve covered. Easy & awesome!
Personal Progress So Far
Here’s the data:
I think this is a great start, but I need to develop more consistency. Yes, it rained a ton in the third week, but I could’ve (gulped) found a treadmill. Or I could’ve done a little mall walking. So going forward, I’m shooting for a consistent five days each week, putting one foot in front of the other, for at least 30 minutes (about 1.5 miles).
Look for future posts to look at techniques for getting the most out of a walking program, finding the right shoe for you, and recommended warm-ups and stretching for a walking program.