Thirty Minutes To A Healthier Lifestyle
A special thanks to Levi Bradburn, a Leland Chiropractor, for providing this article.
If there is one recommendation I give almost universally to all my patients, it is to simply go on a 30 minute walk every day. It is one of the easiest and cheapest recommendations I can give, yet it has the potential to have more of an impact than anything else I could suggest. Why walking? There are several reasons; the simplest being that nearly all of my patients can walk, at least to some capacity. Walking also has tremendous benefits to our health:
Drastically reduces risk of heart disease and stroke
Drastically reduces cases of obesity and type 2 diabetes
Strengthens bone density, especially in the hip
Improves digestion and bowel function
Increases immune system function
Decreases incidences of depression
Decreases stress hormones in the bloodstream
Increases dopamine (feel good hormone)
Reduces risk of cognitive impairment such as dementia and Alzheimers
Improves memorization and learning
For the time it takes to watch another episode of The Office you could enjoy all of these benefits. Heck, binge another episode while you walk on a treadmill if need be. The most recent Nielsen report shows the average American watches at least 4 hours of television a day. Why not spend at least 1/8 of that time walking?
Americans today are averaging fewer and fewer daily steps each year. However, this statistic is particularly eye opening when comparing it to other populations. Americans tend to average around 5,000 steps per day. Compare that with Japan (7,168 steps) or Switzerland (9,650 steps) and it’s not hard to see why obesity is rising exponentially in the U.S. It is especially surprising when compared to what the Amish average in a day at a whopping 18,000 steps! It is no wonder they were seen to have some of the lowest rates of obesity.
Walking has such a profound effect on the human physiology, that our bodies are literally built for it. Many of the curves (or arches) found in our anatomy are there to support us in a walking position. The arch of the human foot is unique and specific to our species. Its unique design allows us to transfer weight efficiently when walking by literally adding a “spring to our step.” Have you also ever wondered why our spines are curved the way they are? This is because it allows us to balance the weight of our body evenly in an upright position, especially against the force of gravity. This is why sitting for prolonged periods of time, especially in a slumped forward posture, can be so detrimental to our spinal health and joints. We are physiologically not designed for prolonged sitting.
When explaining these things to patients I frequently get asked a few questions:
Q: Is walking 30 minutes a day the only activity my body needs?
A: For most people no. However, if you simply commit to the daily discipline of seeking out a dedicated 30 minutes of activity a day, you will enjoy a healthier lifestyle because of it.
Q: If I already work out several times a week, do I still need to go on a walk each day?
A: No. However, an extra bit of activity certainly doesn’t hurt if your schedule allows. Also, many people that exercise rigorously have rest days scheduled into their routine (as they should). Those are perfect days for a hike in the woods, a longer walk with the dog, or a long stroll on the beach.
Q: I have pain (from my back, knee, hip, etc.) when I walk longer distances, should I push through the pain?
A: I would likely recommend doing shorter distances if possible, but break it up into multiple walks a day. Unfortunately, pain avoidance can produce a vicious cycle. If it hurts when a patient exercises, they tend to stop doing what they felt was producing pain. Then the lack of movement in the joints tend to make the problem worse over time, making pain come on even quicker/more frequently so the patient does even less and less. The problem can then start impacting things unrelated to exercise, such as their activities of daily living. Therefore, if this is a problem starting to last longer than a couple weeks the first step should be seeing a doctor who can help fix the problem rather than stop a healthy activity. The earlier a problem is addressed the easier it is to treat.
I don’t think it matters how someone incorporates more activity into their day. However, there is no doubt that the average person should try and add more steps into their day. I feel many dismiss the power of “just a walk”, perhaps due to its simplicity. Yet, Jim Rohn once said that “success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” Every person deserves to live a life full of vigor and vitality. It is my hope that everyone will find the inspiration to improve their health, one step at a time.
By Dr. Levi Bradburn, DC