Lessons From the Road: Walking

I wrote this post last September after my sabbatical and shared it on Facebook.  As the weather is starting to improve and I’m speaking to my patients about their plans to start being more active this spring and summer, I remembered writing about walking and dug it out.  I hope that you are inspired to get up and get out and start moving, but even more, I hope that you remember that you can be active indoors, during poor weather and with some creativity, despite whatever reasons you might be giving yourself.  If you have legitimate health concerns that give you cause for concern, consult with your physician before starting a new exercise program, but I think you’ll find that in most cases, your doctor may agree: anybody can walk.

Best wishes – Dr. B

While I was traveling on my sabbatical this summer, my husband and I did a lot of walking.  I started logging our miles walked and then gave up as I was needing to add the 1/4 mile loop here, the 1/2 mile loop there and the 5 miles over that-a-way.  Trust me, it was a lot.  It was actually more than I expected, even though I knew this was going to be a hiking-intense trip.  Sometimes it was more than I wanted.  As much as I want to be a go-with-the-flow, up-for-anything kind of gal, there were times (think: Utah in June) that I just wanted to stay sitting on the air conditioned shuttle bus, get to the cafe and sit under the trees with an ice-cream cone.

But my husband was a great motivator and got me on my feet and up the trail.  Hearing the frogs that sounded like sheep and seeing the beautiful Emerald Pools was worth it…once I got started.  Getting started is the hard part.  But once you’re on the trail, once you get moving, it’s like a self-perpetuating force that keeps you moving.  Hey, this is fun, ooh, look at that.  And, sometimes, look at him or her.

Look at that person who is bigger, smaller, older, younger, stronger, weaker or different in whatever other way that made me glad to be as able-bodied as I am.  But I saw these folks on the trail.  I saw little children skipping along trails.  I saw older men and women clipping along past me and struggling behind me.  I saw people carrying extra weight, sometimes a lot of extra weight.  Sometimes enough extra weight that I started reviewing my CPR training in my head.  But I never needed it.  And I was inspired.  Anybody can walk.

Creative commons image Credit: Rosie O'Beirne under CC-BY-NC-ND licence.
Creative commons image Credit: Rosie O’Beirne under CC-BY-NC-ND licence.

My in-laws were inspired by our trip and they took a shortened version of our trip at the same time that we were traveling.  They did the latter 1/2 of our trip while we were on the first 1/2.  It was great, like a preview for us.  And they told us which things they did and liked and didn’t like.  When we followed in their footsteps, several times, we said, “surely, they didn’t do this trail?!” When we asked later, yes, they did that trail.  Despite age, diabetes and arthritis, they walked, they climbed, they moved.  Anybody can walk.

My mother-in-law did laps around my house during a recent visit.  Anybody can walk.

During the health conference I attended this weekend, the speaker, who works with people suffering severe diabetes in the Martial Islands, said, “If we can reverse diabetes in this place, with all these challenges, we can overcome any obstacle here in the United States.”  I will remember that when I tell myself, I’m too busy to eat right or exercise and I’ll remember that when my patients tell me they don’t have enough money or enough time.  Anybody can walk.

Michael Moore recently started walking and he tweeted about it.  Now he has people walking “with” him via Twitter almost every night.  You can walk with Michael Moore, you can walk with your kids, you can walk your dog, you can walk with a podcast or music or you can walk in silence.  If life is hectic, you can walk fast just to get it done or you can walk slow and savor each step.  You can walk any way you want to, but you can walk.  Anybody can walk.

That said, not everybody can walk.  There are legitimate reasons some people can’t walk, like paralysis, paraplegia, COPD, missing limbs…and if you don’t have one of them, you can walk.  Don’t make excuses, make time.  Make time to take care of yourself.  Take a walk.  It’s one of the habits of people who live in health into their 100th year and beyond.  Take a walk.