Is walking good for you? This question seems so simple, yet you may be wondering why I am asking a question that appears to have an obvious answer.
Obesity is soaring in this country and around the world. Generally speaking, we are eating unhealthy food and we are exercising less. In this country the Internet is king! Television comes in a close second and for kids, the Sony Play station or XBOX occupies the central part of their attention. But as electronic entertainment occupies more and more of our free time and our jobs become less physical, obesity and all the resulting devastating health issues are destroying our bodies.
You may be asking by now – who cares if people are fat and isn’t it okay to be overweight? No matter how much we pretend obesity is “okay” in today’s world, the reality is that the health of our bodies is negatively impacted by the extra weight. Obesity increases the likelihood we will need major joint replacement surgery, it increases the risks of minor surgery and it increases their chances of having colon cancer and/or breast cancer – not to mention issues with high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and vascular disease, heart disease, stroke, depression and immobility.
Are you rolling your eyes yet or saying to yourself, “obesity can’t be ALL that bad”. If so, you would be seriously wrong. Hundreds of research papers studying thousands upon thousands of people have proven with GREAT statistical power that obesity negatively impacts ALL of these health factors.
Well, so what? Obesity may be a bad thing, but WHAT can we do about it? Our jobs are mostly desk jobs. Kids love to play video games. Hardly any of us work on a farm anymore doing the hard physical labor our grandparents did each day. Kids don’t run around at gym class any more. What can be done to reduce obesity in this country and improve each of our health?
In 2013, the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that included 355 people who walked about 10,000 steps a day. These researchers clearly documented a five point drop in the systolic blood pressure in the hypertensive patients.
How about in young people? Can something as BORING as walking help them? A study of 100 healthy young volunteers was published in the journal of Applied Physiology and Nutritional Metabolism. They monitored their activity with pedometers. But, instead of encouraging them to walk more, they RESTRICTED their walking to less than 5,000 steps per day and measured their body’s response to this inactivity. How did their body react? They were able to prove a worsening tendency towards diabetes, a higher percentage of fat in the body and worsening blood cholesterol levels.
Do you want more proof that walking is good for you? In 2012, the American College of Sports Medicine published a paper documenting improved BMI, adiposity index AND lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes with 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. They also showed it does NOT have to be 30 minutes of heart pounding, sweat-rolling-of- your-face, short-of-breath-so-bad-you-can’t-talk exercise! No, just doing the 30 minutes a day of walking will give you these health benefits. No medication necessary! No side effects! No insurance co-pay for your anti-hypertensive medication! You just have to walk!
But Dr. Kloss, you ask, do I really have to walk five miles or 10,000 steps a day? Well, if you want to get the maximum benefit, yes. However, it has also been studied that ANYTHING you do to increase your physical activity during the day will help your health. For instance, if you buy a pedometer and record your steps each day and find you are walking about 5000 steps each day with NORMAL activity, that’s a great base line! Now, take that information and walk a little more each day.
For example, instead of parking right up front in a parking lot, park in the back corner and walk to the entrance of the store. You will increase you daily step count up to 6,000 steps each day. Gradually, you will increase your step count and your activity. Everything you do to increase your activity and step count will help improve your weight, your blood pressure and your cardiovascular health. So don’t be put off by the idea of 10,000 steps – any progress is good progress!
Now many articles and research papers have studied walking and health. How many steps are necessary to be healthy? (Answer: More than 7,500 steps.) Do post-menopausal woman benefit from walking? (Answer: Yes, menopausal woman DO benefit from walking at least 8000 steps a day.) Are there other health benefits from walking other than just reducing obesity? (Answer: YES, walking helps reduce your blood pressure, elevate your mood and reduce your risk of diabetes and of needing insulin injections).
Suggestions I have to help you keep your fitness goals:
- Keep a journal of your walking.
- Write down your goals.
- Buy a pedometer and use it to help document your success.
- When the weather is bad (bad weather here in Wadena?) don’t forget the indoor track at the WDC high school and the Maslowski Wellness Center.
REMEMBER, you have to walk for 30 minutes AND you have to stick with it! You can’t quit after just four weeks! Like anything in our lives worth achieving, it is worth working for! So on some days you won’t feel like walking. You won’t feel like getting off the sofa … BUT JUST DO IT! (Thanks to NIKE for their slogan). You will reap the health benefits if you stick with it!
Just walk! It’s cheap. It’s easy. And it works!!!
Dr. Kloss is a board certified general surgeon at Tri-County Health Care. In his free time, Dr. Kloss is an avid marathon runner. His race resume includes the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington D.C., as well as, marathons in Dublin, Ireland; Paris, France; and Pittsburgh Marathon. He has also ran the Twin Cities Marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the best marathon of all – the New York City marathon for the American Cancer Society. Dr. Kloss has also earned Ironman status having completed the Madison, Wisconsin Ironman race in 2014. All this running helps Dr. Kloss control his weight so he can eat cookies WHENEVER he wants.
- Slow and steady improvement will get you were you want to go.
- Watch what you eat.
- Stay active
- Get to bed earlier
- Don’t drink too much alcohol.