As I write, I am just home after my morning walk with the dogs in Newlands forest at the foot of Table Mountain. Since the Autumn solstice, the morning walks are becoming crisper and bracing as we head for winter. Why would I be sharing that with you? Well, in fact, I read last week that the American Cancer Society has done a study which proves that those who walk around 6 hours per week have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and cancer.
The studies done by the Blue Zones movement that I mentioned in my last blog found that the centenarians they studied incorporated walking and exercise into their every day living. They do not have gym contracts, nor do they pump iron in front of the TV, or ride a stationary bike. They walk daily to their vegetable gardens where they tend the plants and in Japan, many of them live in double storey houses where they regularly climb the stairs.
So what does that say to those of us who live sedentary lives, sitting in front of computers all day, watching TV in the evenings? Yes, I know sport binging on weekends is great, but it breeds couch potatoes! The youngsters coming up behind us are into fancy electronic watches that measure the number of steps they take each day. The Amish communities in the US have the lowest rate of obesity in the US, and wait for it, yes, they average 10,000 steps on their REST day! This study of the Amish triggered the move to reach 10,000 steps per day!
Walking has been proven to have the following benefits:
- Activates lymphatic system
- Eliminates toxins
- Fights infection
- Strengthens immunity
So, how far do we need to walk? If getting out and doing a long walk is not your thing, start by walking for 5 minutes every hour. I know it is not so safe to walk in one’s neighbourhood in South Africa, but consider walking to the café on the corner rather than taking the car. When you get to the Mall don’t drive around looking for the parking spot at the door, park at the far end. If your shopping is heavy, you can always bring it back in the trolley. Take a walk in your neighbourhood, around the block admiring the gardens.
Ideally a 30-40 min walk each day is what you want to strive for. For this, I highly recommend getting a dog or two. They need exercise, and they should get out of your home at least once every day. I have got mine so well trained that they punish me if I try to escape the walk, by running around the house in figures of 8, sending the rugs flying and sometimes upending light furniture!!
There is also a social element to getting out and walking with friends. At weekends the dogs and I join a walking group, so I now have a group of friends that I am getting to know as we walk the local mountain paths. And, on a beautiful day like this past Saturday, what a privilege that is.