Put your left foot in front of you right, and then your right foot in front of your left, and then repeat.
That’s called walking. And it could be the best thing for your overall health.
The historian Geroge Mcaulay Trevelyan wrote in 1913 that his two doctors were “My left leg and my right.”
The truth in that statement is coming to light every day with new studies and reports. The Guardian published an article titled, “Walking could protect brain against shrinking,” based off research published by U.S. neurologists who monitored 300 volunteers over 13 years. The report says walking may ward off a variety of conditions.
In the study, those who walked the most cut their risk of developing memory problems by half. And it suggested people try to walk 9 miles a week, the optimum distance for “neurological exercise.”
Those that walked about 9 miles a week had larger brains and dementia or cognitive impairment was 50% greater on those who only walked short distances.
“Our results should encourage well-designed trials of physical exercise in older adults as a promising approach for preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr Kirk Erickson, of Pittsburgh University, who led the study said. “Brain size inevitably shrinks in late adulthood, which can cause memory problems. “But if regular exercise in midlife could improve brain health, thinking and memory in later life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative.”
Why Sitting is Killing Us
The dangers of sitting might be equal or greater than the benefits of walking.
In a Gizmodo article, “Sitting Is the Smoking of Our Generation,” Nilofer Merchant lays out the case against sitting on our tush all day. Merchant writes:
“After 1 hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat declines by as much as 90%. Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism affecting things like (good cholesterol) HDL levels in our bodies.
“Research shows that this lack of physical activity is directly tied to 6% of the impact for heart diseases, 7% for type 2 diabetes, and 10% for breast cancer, or color cancer. You might already know that the death rate associated with obesity in the US is now 35 million. But do you know what it is in relationship to Tobacco? Just 3.5 million.
“The New York Times reported on another study, published last year in the journal Circulation that looked at nearly 9,000 Australians and found that for each additional hour of television a person sat and watched per day, the risk of dying rose by 11%. In that article, a doctor is quoted as saying that excessive sitting, which he defines as nine hours a day, is a lethal activity.”
Physical inactivity has also been labeled a public health issue, and the health risks of physical inactivity are similar to smoking, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
So, what can you do to move your body?
A good start might be to putting your left foot in front of your right foot more often. Get to the gym. And when you’re not in the gym, hit the stairs instead of the elevator. Interrupt sitting whenever you can. Stretch more. Walk around at lunch time. On a phone call? Pace around the room instead of plopping down on the chair. Look for every excuse to move your body. Stand up for your right to stand up.
Need more motivation?
Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, wrote: “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, too, put his health down to shoe leather, writing: “I measure your health by the number of shoes and hats and clothes you have worn out.”