Monday, May 7, 2012

Barriers, Busted: Part II (Walk This Way)

In Part I of "Barriers, Busted" I alerted you to a little known fact that most American adults don't exercise enough.  What's that?  Everyone knows that?  Hmmmm...

In my first post I observed that many of the clients I work with use the excuse, "I don't have time to exercise" as the reason they spend most of their 24 hours sitting on their backsides.  As promised, I'm going to break-down the "no time" barrier by giving you efficient, anywhere exercise that costs nothing.

Too good to be true?  Would I lie to you, dear reader?  Without further ado, drumroll please!  The first exercise that you do have time to do is....Walking!

Did I just sense a collective eye roll from the internet?  Walking can't certainly be a magic bullet to fighting the inactivity and obesity crisis in America, can it?  But it can!  It is!

Walking is probably the single best thing you can do to improve your health.  Just 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity walking conveys significant health benefits.  In fact, Dr. Steven Blair of the University of South Carolina, has dedicated much of his career to researching the link between moderate activity (walking, in most cases) and longer and healthier lives.  I won’t even list all the research studies that say walking is excellent exercise.  But if you’d like some examples, here’s a good article by Harvard Medical School. Raise your hand if you'd like to live a longer, healthier life. 

Let me repeat this for dramatic impact.  Walking.  Will.  Save.  Your.  Life.

I think part of the reason why many American adults don't get enough (any) exercise, is because they think it was to be exhaustive, requires many hours per week (per day?) and is expensive by nature of gym memberships, home fitness equipment and the like.  But walking is the exception to those rules.  Here's why I walk:

1) Walking is actually enjoyable.  It's relaxing, unlike running, which leaves me asking the question, "Haven't I gone far enough?"

2) It's social.  Walking with my husband, co-workers or friends is a great way to spend time together and still be able to chat.  Unlike running (can you tell I'm anti-running?) you can actually hold a conversation without *gasp* having to *gasp* take a *gasp* breath *gasp* between every word. 

3) I'm always 30 seconds away from a walk.  I don't have to drive anywhere, pack special clothes or need special equipment.  As long as I've got appropriate footwear, I'm ready to go, any time, any place.  This means that the 30 minutes I walk is just 30 minutes -- not 30 minutes plus the 10 minutes to drive the gym (and home), the 5 minutes getting checked-in, the 10 minutes waiting for a machine... Walking is just walking.

4) Child care is no problem, kids can walk (or ride in a stroller).

5) I'm outside.  I love being outside, but since I have a desk job, I don't get out as much as I'd like.  Walking is an exercise that allows me to enjoy being outside (without gasping for air).  I'm not even talking about heading out to the countryside.  My favorite time to walk is 6am with my dog.  The city is totally different in the morning.  It's peaceful without traffic, the city sprinklers make the streets appear exotic (and the dog likes to stick her head in them) and the sunrise is beautiful.  I love a morning walk, and my dog does too.

So start walking.  Make today the day.  Your health (and your dog) will thank you. 


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Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
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