" Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time."
Everything about walking is good for your health. It builds strength,
reduces your risk of heart disease, juices up your joints, calms your mind,
and helps you and your poodle live longer, happier lives.
There are some who still scoff at walking, dismissing it as exercise lite,
not cool, maybe even a waste of your recreational time. These people --
many of them wearing some form of Lycra -- can be listened to, but not
believed. Even a little bit of walking goes a long way, according to a recent
issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch.
Two scientists who sifted through 4,295 articles published on walking
between 1970 and 2007 concluded that even a modest walking program
offers significant protection against many medical problems associated with
old age. Death, for instance.
How modest is modest? This may surprise you: Walking has protective
benefits even if you just manage to walk 5.5 miles over the course of a week, going as slowly as 2 miles per hour.
So what if you're passed by great-grandmothers and tiny children? Be
happy to know you're starting where you are and improving your health,
step-by step. You can always pick up the pace as your confidence grows and your body adjusts.
What will get you started? A new pedometer? An old friend? One
proven way is to just show up. Dress for the weather, and tell yourself
you'll stop after five minutes if you don't like it. Then learn to like it, and
keep going. Keep breathing. If you get tired, rest. If you get bored, amuse
yourself with some cheerful music or an audiobook.
Do keep in mind that everything extra you plug into your ear, and
your brain, will distract you from the deep-seated joy of walking: that is,
exploring the link between mind and body and breath that is so stimulating,
satisfying and soothing to your whole system.
Do NOT -- and I don't mind repeating myself here, in case you're
simultaneously reading this column and driving your car -- do NOT talk
on your cell phone while walking. This is a form of multitasking that taxes
the brain, jams the energy circuits and otherwise makes your walking time
less beneficial than it can be. Plus walking while talking on your cell looks
stupid. Plus it shows a kind of an addiction to technology that is antihealth
and, I believe, pro brain tumors.
Here are a few more of the million tips I could give you about one of my favorite sports:
Walking is good for your health, and so is charitable giving.
Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based nonprofit that collects new and
gently worn shoes and distributes them to people in need all over
the world. Please visit www.giveshoes.org, and be grateful you
have used walking shoes to give.