For the past several years, I've researched how to live my healthiest, happiest life, experimenting on myself, and delving deep into the science of wellness. I started in a place pretty much like the low point – Donald Trump elected president, my marriage in ruins, my whole world upside down. My diet sucked, I didn't move, I put on weight – the unhealthy kind, the stuff around the waist that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. I was in a baffled state mentally, and my sympathetic system was sending a constant "fight or flight" message to my overworked body. I doubt I had a lot of fun being here.
This series will, in many ways, be the story of my last four years and heal my mind, body and soul. As data-driven and hyper-analytical as always, I'm firmly rooted in science, but I've also learned that everyone is different and the way we respond to stimuli is as different as the number of people on this planet. So I'll talk about what science says, but I'll also talk about what worked and what didn't work for me, and I will always realize that there are seldom absolute when I talk about these things. So I'm not going to advocate a specific diet like keto or any specific workout. This is not my marching orders, I am offering a menu of options and hopefully you can find something that works for you that will make your life a little better.
Except today. Today I am speaking absolutely. This is the only thing you have to do no matter what, because it is the most important thing you can do for yourself.
I was just walking and finally decided to stay outside until sunset because going out, I realized, was really going in. -John Muir
Nothing offers more health and mental benefits than walking. Period. Here is just a selection of the proven benefits:
A meta-analysis (a study that pooled other studies) that pooled nearly 300,000 participants and only walked 30 minutes a day reduced the risk of coronary artery disease by 19%. This is important for causing stress: you don't have to run or jog or do anything sweaty and strenuous to get the heart-healthy benefits of exercise. All you need is on foot.
Walking burns calories, but the numbers are small – a few hundred calories an hour. For weight loss purposes this is minimal. But there's a better way walking can help you lose weight – one study found that walking 15 minutes after eating lowered blood sugar levels. This is great for diabetics, of course, but also for everyone else. Lower blood sugar levels mean lower levels of insulin – a hormone that interferes with the mobilization of fat for energy.
Walking on an empty stomach (in other words, before breakfast) can increase fat burning. There is no food in your system that increases insulin levels, and the low exertion of walking means the body can get the exertion directly from its fat stores. A meta-analysis of 27 studies showed that "(t)Here was a significant increase in fat oxidation during exercise in the fasted state compared to the fed state. "
The last two points may seem contradictory, but they are not – fasting walking burns more fat, but walking after a meal limits the amount of energy in that meal that can be transported in fat stores. Go 15-30 minutes before breakfast and after dinner and you have a pretty strong 1: 2 punch.
Genes are not hard-coded in our system. The way we live and other external stimuli can change the way these genes "express". So when you leave, the genes are literally telling you to act healthier. "Qibin Qi of the Harvard School of Public Health and his colleagues say that walking for about an hour a day can reduce the weight-promoting effects of certain genes by 50%, "reported Time. "Additionally, the scientists say, like sedentary activities like watch TV can trigger weight gain from the same genes. "
Women over 70 who run live longer. A study of 13,535 women found that "Physical activity is linked to a reduced risk of chronic illness and premature death. "Importantly, the study's lead author, Harvards Qi Sun, said:In terms of extent, walking and other moderate activities were close to the benefits of more physical activity. In other words, you don't have to do anything harder than walking to get the health benefits of exercise.
Perhaps related to the above, women who walk Seven or more hours per week have a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who haven't – and that reduced risk was also present in women with increased risk factors such as obesity or the use of additional hormones. The 17-year-old study tracked 74,000 postmenopausal women. “The longer women went and the more strenuous they were, the lower their risk. It's not exactly clear how exercise might lower the risk of breast cancer, but researchers say that physical activity helps regulate hormones, such as estrogen, that can promote breast cancer growth. "
A simple 30 minute walk will increase yours immune System. One study found: "Walking caused modest and short-lived changes in immune parameters, particularly in the number of neutrophils and natural killer blood cells. "The 'short-lived' part is important, as lead author Time said:" (W) We found that these immune cells withdraw into the tissue they came from about three hours after exercise. If you have a housekeeper who cleans for 30 minutes each day, your house will look a lot better by the end of the month. I think the same thing happens with the immune system and pathogen clearance in the body. “Another study found that 7,000 steps might be the optimal goal for the elderly. Oh, and walking reduces the negative effects of menopause on the immune system.
A Mayo Clinic study of 868 people between the ages of 70 and 89 found that those who did moderate physical activity two to five times a week between the ages of 50 and 65 had a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment. Walking helps keep your brain sharp.
A 2013 study of 91 older adults using slight cognitive impairment found that the further participants could run in six minutes, the better theirs Storage function and the maintenance of gray matter volume.
Walking is a powerful pain reliever that mobilizes many of your body's main drives, sending blood, and stimulating painful muscles and joints to recovery. It is especially effective if you have back pain as blood is driven to the psoas and quadratus lumborum – deep stabilizing muscles that integrate the lumbar spine into the hip and pelvic complex.
10 minutes a day can prevent arthritis in your knees, hips, ankles, or feet.
Get even more benefits, including reducing stress and strengthening your immune system, by going for a walk (also known as a "hike") in nature. And as a bonus, people who hike regularly suffer fewer falls as they get old. Walking on uneven ground strengthens the same stabilizer muscles that keep you upright. Nobody wants a broken hip.
I could go on seriously, but you understand that walking is good for your heart, good for your brain, good if you want to control your weight. It strengthens your immune system and reduces the risk of serious illnesses. It helps you live longer, with less pain and a much better quality of life.
It is meditative and can connect you to the world around you. Get to know your neighborhood, your neighbors, and your presence on the street to help prevent crime. All the great thinkers have done some of their best jobs while walking. "I think as soon as my legs start moving my thoughts start flowing," said Henry David Thoreau. Walking demonstrably promotes creative thinking "(Albert) Einstein's daily walk was sacred to him, ”wrote the BBC in an article about Einstein's“ bizarre habits ”. "He walked a mile and a half there and back while working at Princeton University in New Jersey. He followed in the footsteps of other hardworking hikers, including Darwin, who took three 45-minute walks each day."
The best thing about hiking? it is so easy.
The health benefits start at 10 minutes and most get you at 30. I don't care how busy you are, you can carve 30 minutes for a walk. If you can do 30 before breakfast and 30 after dinner, this is best, but not required.
You can find creative ways to incorporate walking into your life. When you go into the store, park at the far end of the parking lot. Let others circle endlessly around this point closer to the entrance. It takes 20 minutes to walk a mile. So do not drive closer than a mile away if possible. Take breaks from walking, even five minutes here and there add up. If you have a treadmill, great! Use it for more than hanging your laundry. You don't have to run here either! Set it to 3-4 MPH and read a book or magazine, watch a show or catch up on Daily Kos on a tablet. 30 minutes pass.
Get a dog. Go with the dog. Take the stairs. When commuting by public transport, do not use the closest stop to your destination. Go to or from a more distant one. Meet on foot. Get together with friends on a hike (which is wise especially during the pandemic, as long as you are masked). Make an extra round of the store's food history before you check out. Not only does this allow you to add another 600 steps (depending on the size of your store), it may help you remember something you forgot.
Don't use the bathroom near you when it's time to go. Go to the farthest one in your home or office. Go window shopping. Meet friends? Call her on a walk. Get there while you're watching a show, or at least while the commercials are on. Spend time with the family in the neighborhood (some of the best times with my kids because … NO SCREENS!).
And given that this is Daily Kos, go around town, knock on the door, and in general, be around your neighborhood for political change!
If it helps keep you motivated, get an Apple Watch, Fitbit, or other fitness tracker to help you count your steps. Your iPhone is counting steps and you can download the Google Fit app for Android phones. The generic goal is 10,000 steps, which is roughly 5 miles, or roughly an hour and 40 minutes, on foot. This is great when you get there! But you don't have to. An hour is great! But 30 minutes – or 4,000 steps – is your low-end goal.
Seriously, this is not optional. Please begin a daily walking exercise out of love for all (or no) gods. The benefits are many, critical to healthy living, and so easy to incorporate into our schedules no matter how busy they are.
Your enjoyment of the walk must result from the practice and the day, from the look at the last smile of the year on the yellow-brown leaves and withered hedges and from the repetition of a few of the thousand poetic descriptions that autumn still has of this season of the year peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the spirit of taste and tenderness – that season of the year drawn by any poet worth reading, an attempt at description or some lines of feeling. -Jane Austen