Surgeon General of the U.S. Promotes Healthy Walking

A beach in Albufeira, Portugal. Stay active, stay healthy! (Dr. Noorai Bharwani)
A beach in Albufeira, Portugal. Stay active, stay healthy! (Dr. Noorai Bharwani)

Regular walking has physical and mental benefits.

“If you seek creative ideas go walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk,” says writer Raymond I. Myers.

If you want to be healthy and stay healthy then take a walk, says U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy is an American physician, a vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the 19th Surgeon General of the United States. He knows what he is talking about.

Only half of adults and just over a quarter of high school students get the amount of physical activity recommended for good health. That is not good.

How much activity do we need to stay healthy?

It is recommended that adults get at least two and half-hours a week of moderately intense physical activity. Children should be active at least 60 minutes every day.

Why do we need to be physically active?

The reasons are pretty simple but very important. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and a list of other health problems – and can ease symptoms and improve quality of life for people already living with chronic diseases.

Murthy says your walking should be brisk enough that you can still talk but not sing. Walking should be brisk enough to get your heart rate up. To encourage walking we need to make our neighborhoods easier and safer for foot traffic. Walking is simple and affordable. Murthy encourages communities to create walkable neighborhoods. Make sidewalks safer for seniors.

November is senior’s falls prevention month. Studies have shown that walking is good for balance. A good balance does help prevent falls.

Walking is not always easy. Changing weather and flu season is a hindrance to establish consistent walking habit. Icy roads and sidewalks are dangerous. People find indoor areas like malls and indoor walking trails in places like YMCA very helpful.

You can walk leisurely 30 minutes a day for general health benefits. You can walk briskly to improve cardiovascular fitness by walking 30 minutes a day five days a week. If you are trying to lose weight then you need to walk briskly for 45 to 60 minutes a day five days a week. And make your dinner slimmer.

Scientific literature suggests that regular, brisk exercise of any kind can improve confidence, stamina, energy, weight control and life expectancy and reduce stress. It can also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and other health problems. And Friedrich Nietzsche, author of Twilight of the Idols says, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” What more can you ask for?

Now lets get cracking!

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Walking is Good for Balance and Preventing Falls

A dog waiting to go for a walk. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
A dog waiting to go for a walk. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

November is senior’s falls prevention month. Studies have shown that walking is good for balance. A good balance does help prevent falls.

Walking is not always easy. Changing weather and flu season is a hindrance to establish consistent walking habit. Icy roads and sidewalks are dangerous. People find indoor areas like malls and indoor walking trails in places like YMCA very helpful.

We do have many good days in spring, summer and fall. The majority of the people should be able to walk to most of the places. But the problem is we are always in a hurry to get to our destination and then rush back home. We never seem to stop and ask, “Why am I rushing? Why cannot I take my time and enjoy the walk?”

You can walk leisurely 30 minutes a day for general health benefits. You can walk briskly to improve cardiovascular fitness by walking 30 minutes a day five days a week. If you are trying to lose weight then you need to walk briskly for 45 to 60 minutes a day five days a week. And make your dinner slimmer.

Get serious about your walking. Pedometers are the easiest way to keep track and log your daily activity. UWALK recommends the Piezo StepX pedometers, however any pedometer will work – see UWALK website. You can also track and log your daily activity using other activity monitors.

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the term walking is used to describe both walking in a park and trekking in the Alps. However, in Canada and the United States the term for a long, vigorous walk is hiking, while the word walking covers shorter walks, especially in an urban setting, says UWALK website.

Scientific literature suggests that regular, brisk exercise of any kind can improve confidence, stamina, energy, weight control and life expectancy and reduce stress. It can also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and other health problems.

There is no doubt or any disagreement in scientific literature that sustained walking sessions for a minimum period of 30 to 60 minutes a day, five days a week, reduce health risks and have various overall health benefits – physical and mental. Walking is seriously encouraged because these days people walk less than they used to. If you are not a regular walker then it is time to start. For seniors it certainly helps prevent falls.

Start reading the preview of my book A Doctor's Journey for free on Amazon. Available on Kindle for $2.99!

Walking and My Grandma

Walking is a wonderful exercise. My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was 60. Now she is 97 years old and we don’t know where the hell she is!

Okay, don’t worry, that is not true. We know where she is. She is somewhere in heaven. Probably looking down and smiling at me and at my silly little joke. And the joke is from one of many e-mails I receive where some jokes are really funny and some are really stupid – I guess stupidity is meant to be funny.

Come to think of it, my grandma did like walking. Quite often there was no choice. We lived in small towns of Musoma and Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania. And the best mode of transportation was our legs or bikes. We did not own a car. We walked or biked everywhere.

As a young boy, I remember holding my grandma’s hand helping her walk through the dark alleys and the roads of those small towns. There was no electricity. We used flash light or kerosene lanterns.

Every evening, my grandma would go to a prayer hall to pray and meditate. In fact, we would all go as a family – every single day! And one of us was put in charge of her safety. Those were the days of big extended families where we all looked after each other. There was nothing like nursing homes, group homes or assisted living. We took care of our own.

My grandma was in her 90s when she died. She had a severe case of asthma but she died of old age.

Medicine Hat reminds me of Musoma and Mwanza except it is bigger. But it is small enough to have everything within walking distance. But how many of us walk to work or go shopping?

Of course there are exceptions. Everybody is not lazy like me. There are lots of people who walk or bike to work and go grocery shopping. And there are many people for whom using a vehicle is important – for health and safety reasons.

Walking is not always easy. Changing weather and flu season is a hindrance to establish consistent walking habit. We are so seasonal in everything we do in a year that our brains are frozen in that mentality. And icy roads and side walks are dangerous.

But we do have many good days in Medicine Hat. The majority of the people (including me!) should be able to walk to most of the places. But the problem is we are always in a hurry to get to our destination and then rush back home. We never seem to stop and ask – why am I rushing? Why cannot I take my time and enjoy the walk?

You can walk leisurely 30 minutes a day for general health benefits. You can walk briskly to improve cardiovascular fitness by walking 30 minutes a day five days a week. If you are trying to lose weight then you need to walk briskly for 45 to 60 minutes a day five days a week. And make your dinner slimmer!

So, be like my grandma……… walk, walk, walk and be healthy and happy – you may even go to heaven!

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Thought for the week:

“The longer the explanation, the shorter the attention span.”

– From Images and Reflections by Dennis van Westerborg, a local artist and writer.

Start reading the preview of my book A Doctor's Journey for free on Amazon. Available on Kindle for $2.99!