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“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

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Life has really changed at my house.  It seems like yesterday I was bundling up to walk Bandy in the frigid darkness and writing about winter walking.  Instead, summer came early at my house.  We’ve had temperatures in the 80’s for the past couple of weeks.  I’m looking forward to the return of normal temperatures in the 70’s for the next few days.  And, unlike last year, it has been sunny and dry. 

We’ve had the perfect weather to tackle outside projects around the house and yard and I’ve been working like crazy.  So far this year I have weeded all the flower beds and painted 2 sides of my foundation.  (I’m on the 20 year plan with this foundation painting.  I figure if my house could go the first 50 years with a bare foundation then I didn’t have to be in too much of a hurry.  I did the first side about 11 years ago.  Now, I only have the back side of the house to go.  Maybe if this weather holds out I can get that done before the mosquitoes invade my yard.  If not, I have about 8 years to meet my personal deadline J). 

I would guess in the last 3 weeks I have spent about 20 hours bending over, bending down, pulling, twisting, bending up, bending down, and pushing.  It was tricky trying to paint from the ground up while standing in a bed of irises about to bloom.  I felt like I was playing twister!

And you know what?  I’ve not had one sore muscle…not in my legs or arms or back or neck.  I found this a little curious because I remember last year once the rain stopped and I could get out in the garden, I was uncomfortable pulling weeds and digging and planting.  I remember my knees hurting and my back aching.  I had to lean my knees on a padded pillowy thing for goodness sake.  I remember thinking if this is how I feel at 42 how will I ever garden when I’m 50 or 60.  

I’ve spent some time thinking these past few weeks as to why I haven’t had any discomfort or pain this year.  There has to be a reason, right? 

I’ve come up with two possibilities…qigong and walking.  

Qigong is “a form of traditional Chinese mind/body exercise and meditation that uses slow and precise body movements with controlled breathing and mental focusing to improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength and overall health.”  

As you may know from reading Is Walking Enough (Part 2), I’ve been doing a short qigong routine for about 9 months now.  It took me a few weeks to get the hang of it and remember the sequence without referring to the pictures.  This qigong sequence of 6 movements seems to stretch most, if not all, of the major muscle groups.  I do these stretches every morning.  It feels great and it doesn’t take a lot of time to complete – about 12 minutes.  Doing these stretches every day has increased my normal range of motion and has increased my overall flexibility.  It is nothing now to bend down and reach and stretch because my body has been training to do this daily through qigong!  

I also think that walking soon after finishing these tasks helped my body recover quickly.  Like taking a hot shower after exerting yourself, I think that walking soon after my tasks gave my allowed my body to move and stretch and stop the soreness or stiffness that might have occurred had I just sat down and watched TV after I finished working.

Have you been working hard in the yard or house, playing tennis, running or riding your bike after a winter of little activity?  Are you calling on your body to move more than normal now that the weather begs for outdoor activities?  Have you noticed stiffness or soreness and wish you had a way to minimize these side effects of the weekend warrior?  If you want to prevent post-warrior pain and soreness, give qigong and walking a chance…a hot shower won’t hurt either.

What home projects or fitness activities have you been working on or have planned for the Spring?  Do you ever feel sore or pain from your work or fun?  Let us read all about it in the comments.

One of my co-workers was talking about her grandma ‘Mimi’ recently.  Ms. Mimi lived to be 104 years old.  She never exercised a day in her life.  Instead, she never stopped moving.  She was always ‘doing’ and rarely wanted to sit down to take a rest. 

Today our ‘advanced’ society makes it very easy to develop lazy habits.  Do you sit most of your day in an office job?  Do you ride to work in a car or public transportation?  Do you mow your own lawn?  Do you clean the gutters, wash the windows, iron the clothes, or prepare three meals from scratch?  See where I’m going here?  Many of the activities our grandparents performed as their way of life aren’t done anymore.  We outsource our chores, a meal goes from bag or box to plate in 5 minutes and we surf through hundreds of channels with a click of a finger.  Today’s way of life allows us to move less and less during our days if that is what we choose to do.

But there is a big downside to all of our conveniences…we burn less calories every day and, over time, we gain weight.  One way to stop this process is to get moving!  Even if you don’t like to exercise you can make a habit of moving more during your day.  

Back in 2005 we heard about the ‘losing weight through fidgeting’ study conducted by researcher Dr. James Levine at the Mayo Clinic.  The study compared two groups of ‘couch potatoes’ that included a lean group and an obese group.  The participants were considered couch potatoes if they didn’t exercise.  The study monitored the daily movements of the two groups and determined that the lean couch potatoes moved at least 2 hours more throughout their day.  During the 2 hours of extra movement, the lean couch potatoes burned 350 calories more, per day, than the obese couch potatoes.  These extra movements can add up to10 to 30 pounds a year.  After the study, Dr. Levine stated that “the amount of this low-grade activity is so substantial that it could, in and of itself, account for obesity quite easily.” 

What this means for you is that increasing your activity level can help you fight weight gain even if you don’t formally exercise.  Think back to your grandparents again (or great-grandparents if you’re really young).  It’s unlikely that your grandpa went to the gym to workout or that your grandma headed to a daily jazzercise class.  Instead they probably took care of their home and yard by doing all the chores their self.  And because they had fewer conveniences back then, it took a lot more effort and time to wash clothes, cook or mow the lawn (push mowers!) then it does today. 

We have to compensate for the fact that we sit for a huge amount of our day as we commute to work, sit at a desk at work, and frequently come home to a sofa or another desk.  If we don’t increase our activity levels during the parts of our day we can control, then we will gain weight. 

So how can you increase the activity in your day?  There are endless ways but here are some to consider:

  • Walk to your mailbox instead of driving up to the box.
  • Park as far away as you can from your job, store, etc.
  • Pull the batteries out of the remote control.  You will have to get up to change the channel
  • Mow your own lawn
  • Cook from scratch
  • March in place or walk around when you brush your teeth
  • Spend part of your lunch break walking and take walk breaks during the day even if you are only taking the long way to the copy machine and bath room
  • Walk while your children are at ball practice or dance lessons
  • Spend 15 – 30 minutes each night cleaning your house from top to bottom (windows, baseboards, closets…everything).  Make a checklist for each room in the house with activities you can complete in your 15 – 30 minute timeframe
  • Plant a flower, herb and/or vegetable garden
  • Spend 15 minutes every night decluttering your house
  • Do something active with your children every day like throwing a football or frisbee, playing tennis, flying a kite, playing hopscotch or jump rope, blowing bubbles
  • Walk around your yard or neighborhood every morning or evening 

Your goal is to add movement throughout your day, every day.  Try this.

Post a list at work of all the ways you can increase your activity level:

  • Stand up and move when talking on the phone
  • Walk around the floor or office frequently during the day
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park in the ‘far away’ spots
  • Walk during part of your lunch or other breaks

Try to do everything on your list everyday.

Try this.  Make a list every day before you leave work of the activities you want to accomplish when you get home, such as:

  • Walk the dog
  • Play with kids outside 15 minutes
  • Wash, fold and put away a load of laundry
  • 15 minutes decluttering kitchen junk drawer

These tasks will keep you up and moving and will burn many more calories than sinking into the comfy sofa at the end of your day.  Making a list keeps you on track and helps you stay focused.

In today’s world we are moving far less than the generations that came before us.  Today there is an easy way to do every chore.  The easiest way of all is to outsource the daily chores that we used to do.  While it may make our lives easier, the easy way out results in our moving less and less and this can lead to weight gain for us all.  Take a moment today to think how you can live a more active life, burn a few more calories each day, and maybe lose a few pounds in the process.

Do you think you have a more active life than your grandparents?  Do you exercise most days?  If not, do you try to add extra movement to your days?  I’d love to hear more in the Comments.

For more ideas to increase your daily activity level, read this article about the ‘fidgeting’ study which includes a sample active day.

 

We’ve heard it all before…we should exercise every day.  We’ve heard the studies that say regular exercise will reduce our risk for cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression, osteoporosis, etc.  No matter how much we want to exercise, we never follow through with the promises we make to ourselves to hit the gym or to make it to a yoga class.  Or maybe we do make it to a class or go for a jog but then we just can’t seem to stick with it – we can’t get into an exercise groove.  Our job, children, family and friends all need our attention, our money and/or our time.  We still think about exercise…mainly that we are not exercising…and this makes us feel guilty and stressed.  Our thoughts of all the exercise we should be doing, but aren’t, become overwhelming and we give up – sometimes before we start.  Is the thought of getting fit stressing you out and pushing you to inaction? 

But hold on a minute.  Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day.  And you don’t have to overwhelm yourself with all that you think you should be doing.  Instead, plan out what you can do in 15 minutes a day.  You can gain important health benefits in just 15 minutes of exercise each day.  Each time you complete a 15 minute session it will add up until you have hours of fitness under your belt.  Doing something is always better than doing nothing.  Your 15 minutes of something will add up to 1 hour and 45 minutes of fitness each week or 4.5 hours of fitness each month.  That’s pretty impressive if you are doing less than that now.

So what could you do during your 15 minutes of fitness?  Consider alternating each day between an aerobic session and a strength training session. 

Week 1 walk for 15 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  

Week 2 complete a strength training session on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. 

Don’t think for a second that you need to have a gym membership or own an expensive piece of equipment for this 15 minute fitness program.  One of the best aerobic activities you can do for your self is to walk.  Walking 15 minutes 3-4 times each week will provide you with a number of health benefits.  Check out One Activity that Can Change Your Life for more information about the vast health benefits of walking. 

It is possible to create a strength training program at home with no equipment.  Using your own body weight as resistance you can do push-ups, sit-ups, squats, core exercises, dips, etc.  Use your 15 minutes of strength training to complete some light stretches, 10 push-ups, 25 sit-ups, 20 squats and 6 dips.  In one month, this will add up to 150 push-ups, 375 sit-ups, 300 squats and 90 dips each month.  See how these small incremental efforts add up to big time numbers?  Check out this previous post on weight training if you want to incorporate free-weights or you are looking for some other strength training exercises.

No matter what your situation, a fitness program is within your reach.  Don’t become paralyzed by unrealistic expectations.  Just commit to 15 minutes a day and alternate between an aerobic program and a strength training program to start your fitness program.  The most important thing you can do for your health today is to commit to a daily routine that you complete everyday no matter what.  A 15 minute commitment is do-able for everyone.  No excuses.  Make your 15 minute fitness program a habit and you will reap the health benefits guaranteed.

Do you ever become overwhelmed with your fitness goals?  Have you ever stopped exercising because you felt like what you were doing didn’t make a difference?  Let me know in the comments.  Thanks.

 Next Post:  Do You Have Lazy Habits?

Winter is finally loosening its noose on the weather at my house.  I’ve actually gotten to walk twice in shorts during the last 10 days.  Nothing feels better than bare legs after a long winter.  It’s so exciting to think of all the walks ahead of me that I won’t need a coat, gloves, scarf and a hat.  I love spring and I love walking in spring.  Here’s why:

  • I know that even if the weather isn’t perfect today, a sunny and warm day is never far away like it was in January
  • I love to look at the wild flowers and flowering trees
  • I love to hear the birds sing their hearts out
  • I love to watch the new tree buds slowly unfurl into bright green leaves
  • I love to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin
  • I love the minimalist walking wardrobe of warmer weather
  • I love to people and dog watch while I am walking at the park
  • I love to feel the warm breeze on my skin
  • I love to walk the dog in the light of day after work instead of in the cold and dark of winter
  • I love that I am always motivated to walk outside on a beautiful Spring day

If the spring weather is motivating you to take a walk don’t forget to put on sunscreen and bring extra water for you and any children or dogs that are walking with you.  It’s also a good idea to keep an umbrella handy in case of unexpected spring showers.  Also, don’t put the gloves and hat away just yet.  Keep some cold weather wear in the car or work so you won’t skip a walk if the weather turns blustery.  Last, check out your local and state park spring activities calendars which will be filling up with nature hikes, wildflower hikes and educational activities for you and your children.

What do you love about spring walking? Will you be walking more frequently or taking longer walks now that we have longer daylight hours?  Has spring come to your house yet? 

Next Post:  Is Trying to Get Fit Stressing You Out?

Back in February, we looked at whether a walking routine would meet the guidelines for moderate level intensity exercise set by the CDC’s 2008 Physical Guidelines for Americans.  The studies we looked at reported that walking is considered a moderate level intensity exercise but only if you walk as fast as a 15 minute mile.  Other studies suggest that walking is beneficial even if you walk slower but emphasized that as you walk faster there is a corresponding increase in the health benefits that you will receive.  

But this is only half of the story… 

In addition to recommending 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of a moderate intensity aerobic activity, like walking, the CDC also recommends that adults perform muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week.  While walking is great for your aerobic fitness, walking will not strengthen most of your major muscle groups. 

Do you have any idea what the word ‘sarcopenia’ means?  I didn’t either.  But, I learned that sarcopenia is a condition of age-related loss of muscle mass and strength.  We begin to lose muscle mass around age 40 and, if you don’t do anything to stop it, up to 33% of your muscle mass may be gone by age 80. 

Researchers are focusing on why we lose muscle mass as a part of aging and many think that it is related to a slow-down of blood flow to our muscles as we age which deprives our muscles of the nutrients and oxygen needed to rebuild and repair our muscles. 

Weight training is one way to stop the process of losing muscle mass and increasing the blood flow to your muscles.  (Prevention –Feb 2010, pg. 73) In as little 15-30 minutes each day, you can perform all the weight training exercises you need to realize improvement in your muscle mass – no matter what your age!  

Weight training will help you reverse the age-related loss of muscle mass and prevent an increase in body fat as you maintain or increase your muscle mass.  Exercise helps the muscle cells get bigger and it also makes your muscles stronger.  Weight training will reduce body fat, increase your bone density, increase lean muscle, and help you control your weight as your body burns calories more efficiently.  If you are suffering from arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity or osteoporosis, weight training can help reduce the symptoms of these chronic conditions.

It is easy to start a weight training program right at home.  All you need are free weights which you can find at any Target, Wal-Mart or sports store. You can try the weights out at the store to see what you should start with.  I have 3 lb., 5 lb., and 8 lb. weights that I use for my workouts.  Believe it or not these free weights coupled with exercises that use your own body weight for resistance is all that you need to start a weight training program. 

The most recent information on weight training indicates that aiming for 8-12 repetitions of the heaviest weight that you can lift is the most efficient way to work your muscles.  For instance, if you are a beginner to a weight training program and you are working your biceps, see if you can lift 3lbs for 8 repetitions.  Was it easy or were you struggling to make it to 8 reps?  If you were struggling, then you are using the correct weight, for now.  If it was easy to reach 12 reps then move up to the 5lbs. and so one until you find a weight that is challenging for you.  When your current weight is no longer a challenge, move up to the next weight. 

Your weight training routine should target your main muscle groups including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.  Right now I am following the Total Body Routine developed by Mark Fenton in his book The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss & Fitness.  For a comprehensive weight training routine, Fenton suggests building up to 2 sets of 12 reps for the following exercises:  push-ups, bent-over rows, lunge with bar or weights, full abdominal crunch, overhead press, pull-ups, squat with bar or weights, isometric side support, dips and biceps curl.  If your time for weight training is limited, he suggests completing exercises 1-6 from the list above on the 1st day and exercises 7-10 on the 2nd day.  You should alternate between the 1st workout and the 2nd workout 3 times per week allowing for 1 day of full rest.  Disclaimer:  I do not do pull-ups and I substitute ‘regular’ crunches in the sit-up position for the full abdominal crunch. 

If you are unfamiliar with any of the exercise above or you want to try different weight training routines, there are many resources that can help:

  • Check out Fenton’s book from your local library and learn about the Total Body Routine exercises and all of the other great walking information he discusses in his book
  • Go to the AARP website for video instruction on some of the exercises listed above
  • Go to the Prevention website for demonstrations of arm, back, butt, chest, and leg exercises
  • Check out weight training DVDs or books at the library
  • Hire a personal trainer for a session or two
  • Ask a friend who has experience weight lifting to give you some pointers
  • Download a weight lifting instructional application to your smart phone

Like all exercise programs, you should warm up your muscles before you jump into the main routine.  I do an ‘ultimate energy’ qigong stretching routine before I lift weights.  Check out this link if you want to learn more about qigong or you would like to see a step-by-step video presentation of this routine.  This routine gently stretches many of your main muscle groups and it is a good start to a weight lifting routine.  One more thing to remember is that you should never work the same muscles two days in a row – give those muscles a day off in between workouts.  

So keep walking everyday, but also think about starting a weight training program today to keep your muscles strong and healthy for a lifetime. 

Do you lift weights regularly?  Do you lift at home or at the gym?  Let me know with a comment.

A 2008 study conducted by Western Washington University psychology professor Ira Hyman found that 75 % of walkers who were talking on a cell phone did not see the colorfully dressed clown riding a unicycle in the same open plaza that they were walking through. 

This study followed a related study by Hyman that reported that walking cell phone users were more distracted than those walking and listening to music devices, those walking in pairs or those walking alone.  Furthermore the study reported that walking cell phone users were slow and zigzagging as they walked.  Professor Hyman considered whether “they had a harder time walking because they were not as plugged into the world around them.” (1)    

Do you frequently walk while talking on your cell phone?  In our busy lives we often try to multi-task by walking and making calls to a spouse, friend, family member or work associate.  The problem is that talking on a cell phone while walking can prevent you from receiving many of the benefits that daily walking has to offer. 

Downsides of Multi-Tasking 

Have you ever noticed that if you are talking on your cell phone while walking once your route is done you have no recollection of actually ‘being there? 

Professor Hyman’s study reports that the walking / phone talking combo results in slower, less purposeful walking.  If you are walking slower than normal, then you are short-changing your heart and lungs from the aerobic health benefits that walking offers.  

Talking on the phone while walking might prevent the stress reduction benefits that come from walking and it may increase your stress levels if you are having a dreaded or confrontational call or you are talking to someone who frequently bombards you with their stressful life. 

Walking and talking on the phone doesn’t allow for a mind time-out.  My favorite part of walking is letting my thoughts roam free to day dream.  Its amazing how your brain will problem-solve or come up with great ideas for home or work when you give yourself some time for random thought. 

If you are talking on the phone while walking outside you probably aren’t appreciating the emergence of spring flowers, how the buds are plumping up on the trees, how fast the clouds are moving across the sky or all of the interesting characters you see walking down a city sidewalk.  You are not experiencing your surroundings – you are not present in the moment. 

Let’s face it; if the subjects in the study didn’t see a flamboyantly dressed clown while talking on the phone, it is safe to say that you won’t notice someone who could be a threat to you because they can tell you aren’t paying attention. 

How to Free Your Daily Walk from the Phone 

Now that you know how much you are short-changing yourself from daily walking benefits by using your cell phone while walking what can you do to stop? 

Try to leave your phone at home, at your desk or in the car.  If you feel safe and/or there are other people that could assist you in an emergency where you walk, try to leave the phone behind.  Do you really have to be available during the time that you will be walking?  Liberate yourself from the phone.  Enjoy the freedom. 

Screen your calls and only answer ‘emergency’ calls.  If you feel safer keeping your phone with you during your daily walk try to not answer incoming calls.  Let voice mail pick up the call.  Put the phone on ‘silent.’  If you must answer the call keep the call short or tell the caller you will have to call back. 

Make calls only during your ‘cool-down.’  If you absolutely have to make a call try to call only during the last few minutes of your walk….during the cool-down.  This practice will allow you to reap the benefits of walking during the majority of your walk time but you will also have a few minutes to make a call when you are already walking slowly. 

Daily walking can be one of the best things you do for yourself all day.  If you use your walking time to talk on a cell phone you are missing out on many of the benefits that can keep us motivated to walk every day, no matter what.  Don’t short change yourself or your daily walking routine.  Embrace all of the benefits that daily walking can bring to your life…kick the phone habit and give your mind a break. 

Have you walked today?  Do you frequently talk on the phone while you walk?  Keep in touch by clicking the comments link below.

(1)  Relyea, Kie.  “Clown Passes Unnoticed by Cell Phone Users.”  The Tennessean 26, November 2009:  22A.