No, you do not need to be training to climb a mountain, run a marathon, wear special clothes, or pay money to join a gym or fitness club. Two recently published studies have shown (and confirmed) that simple walking can truly optimize your chances of living a longer life.
Data reported from the large Nurses Healthy Study showed that just an hour of low-intensity walking per week reduced the risk of developing colon cancer 31% compared to those who did not walk at all. Increasing the duration to walking 4 hours/week reduced the risk 44% compared to those not walking at all, adding to the accumulated evidence that regular exercise convincingly reduces the risk of developing colon cancer. (Reported in the International Journal of Cancer, 2007 Dec 15;121(12):2776-81.)
The second study appeared yesterday, January 22, 2008, in an early online edition of the journal Circulation. The largest study of its kind showed that easily achievable levels of exercise (moderately paced walking 30 minutes per day for 4-6 days/week) led to a fitness level associated with 50% reduced risk of premature death from all causes for both black and white older men. I don't know if there is a drug on the market for anything that will offer that level of risk reduction. Certainly there is NO drug available for so low a cost, so many potential benefits, and with so little risk of harmful side effects.
STOP waiting for more studies to be done. In fact, if I could wave a magic wand, I would stop our government from spending any more money on this type of research. I hope your doctor is asking you about your exercise plan. In fact, if he is not asking about exercise, ask why he is not asking you about your exercise plan.
Yes, it is a PLAN. For the vast majority of us, exercise needs to be intentional, just like brushing and flossing your teeth. No one does it for you and most people do not still have their mother reminding them, watching them, cajoling them, rewarding them, etc, etc, etc. :-)
Do you get the idea that I am passionate about this? :-) In fact I am so passionate that I am not waiting for my doctor(s) to start asking me about my exercise plan, I am going to start asking them about their plan. Ha, ha, I'm kidding, right? - no, I am serious!!!
I used to have some excuses myself. I used to say I never went outside when it was below zero degrees. I used to say that I never went outside when there was ice on the sidewalk. Well, now I wear long underwear, and one of my son's gave me some ice-gripper things to put on my boots. So now I truly am outside every single day, even in snowy, cold, cold Michigan during the winter. My motivations are two-fold: keeping my cancer away (several studies have shown reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence with increased amounts of walking - I prefer social visits with my doctors over treatments!) and being strong and fit enough to enjoy all of life's opportunities for a long, long time.
Find your stumbling block, find your motivation, find your solution(s), and get outside (or walk in your mall) 30 minutes every day. Even better, find a friend, walk together, and wave if you see me! When I get another photo of me outside in the snow persevering through the Michigan cold, I'll add it. :-)
I haven't said a single word about food in this posting, such as the importance of eating healthy foods for the energy needed to exercise in order to enjoy life. However, I'll end with a grace that reminds us that the gift of food is vital to life.
For each of us food is the source of sustenance, the basis of life;
and when we offer this gift to one another,
we are not only nourishing each other's bodies,
we are feeding one another's spirits.
So receive - and give - the food of your life as the powerful gift it is.
~~ Daphne Rose Kingma
Diana Dyer, MS, RD