Inspiration for a healthy winter and holiday season
Sacramento, CA- Despite COVID-19 ravaging the nation, flu season approaching, winter cold, snow, ice, and the darkest and gloomiest days of the year, there is good news: this still could be your healthiest and most inspirational winter and holiday season yet!
While, without a doubt, the holiday season will be quite different this year, the stress, baked goodies, battle of the bulge, alcohol excess, financial concerns, wintertime blues, may still be hovering all around you. But, despite all of the above obstacles, perhaps your greatest weapon to improve your health and attitude is as simple as walking – inside your home, or your workplace. Many don’t exercise for a variety of reasons, because it seems too complicated, time-consuming, costly, or “I’m too busy.” Walking is a wonderful solution – there’s no cost, you can do it anywhere, including walking inside your house while you are taking care of other business. Walking to do errands or opting to park your car in the furthest spot from your destination are simple ways to add movement to your otherwise everyday routine.
Lifetime of Running
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, but, a 1,420 mile solo run to Canada, and running 3,000 miles across the USA, twice.
Now, however, I am an obsessive walker, not runner. One evening while running my commute home from the office, literally from one mile to the next, pain pulsed through my knee. I later found out I had torn my left meniscus. With a positive attitude, disappointment, determination and therapy I worked my way to a new exercise routine that now includes walking. Lots of it.
But this story isn’t about not being able to run. I have spent my life and career encouraging Americans to develop an exercise routine, whether it is walking or another form of exercise. Throughout our life we need to adapt to circumstances and practice both resiliency and determination in order to stay healthy. Attitude is everything. In my case, I decided to “light a candle” (walk), rather than “cursing the darkness” (complain about running injury).
Stepping it Up!
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. My job as a primary care naturopathic doctor entails a lot of sitting. You may have heard the saying, “sitting is the new smoking.” Research shows that sitting all day, even if exercising vigorously before or after work, is still a significant risk factor for early death.
So I walk in my 10×10 office, while: answering emails, on the phone, watching the news, brushing my teeth, listening to virtual medical conferences, texting, and even reading a book or doing 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 be able to double the distance, from walking to running, I must now quadruple the amount of time walking. In order to accommodate my new “routine” into my daily schedule I reprioritized a few things and quickly honed my multi-tasking skills. My 2020 average is close to 17,000 steps per day. The last two months, I’ve been averaging over 21,000 steps/9.5 miles every day.
While running in scenic areas, swimming in beautiful lakes and feeling the rush of endorphins had been a huge part of my past, walking has become my “go to” pleasurable replacement activity. I have grown to appreciate walking because of its simplicity. While I prefer hiking in the mountains, I’m only there occasionally, and walking inside or in the neighborhood is more practical.
Find or Create YOUR OWN Exercise Program
Exercise can be done anywhere and I am living proof of that. You don’t need a gym. People often make excuses as to why they don’t exercise. It’s too: hot, cold, smoky, dark, scary, dangerous, polluted, etc. As fluctuating Covid-19 restrictions affect some gyms, walking at home, office, or public places (with a mask please) can be a great solution. It will also show your loved ones: your children, spouse, parents, etc. that you don’t make excuses and that if there is solid ground you will be exercising.
Track Your Progress
Two things that have been extremely important in my daily walking regime are: an i-phone with heart app that records steps walked (or whatever step counter methods to record steps) and the second, is having a phone charger available to ensure that the phone is always charged and recording steps. Recording steps throughout the day, on whatever device, keeps me, and most others motivated to try to get in more steps each day. Without a step counter, it is harder to stay motivated and know how you are really doing in your walking program.
So this holiday season, between wrapping gifts, or baking healthy muffins, spend time with your grandchildren walking in the snow or walking through the commercials on a holiday movie, but for heaven’s sake, keep on truckin’!
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