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July 8, 2020

Walk More Than You Do: NOW!

Hippocrates once said, “If you are in a bad mood go for a walk. If you are still in a bad mood, go for another walk.” Why did the father of modern medicine recommend walking as a form of mood control? Perhaps he innately understood the amazing healing powers of walking.

We’ve been recommending walking as part of our Simple 9© nutritional program for a long time. Walking on two legs is one of the things that makes us humans unique. About two million years ago, our ancestors gave up climbing in trees in favor of walking. Walking helped early humans survive by freeing our hands to carry food, tools or babies, and it allowed us to cover wide-open spaces quickly and efficiently.

Our ancestors always spent a good part of their day walking around to gather food or just traveling from one nomadic home to the next. Modern day hunter gatherers, like Ache or Hadza, walk anywhere from 4 to 10 miles on an average day. And, their walking is done throughout the day, not clumped together in a single session on a treadmill in a crowded gym after work.

For pretty much all of our existence, walking has been a huge part of our daily routine—a habit. Even as our world changed and we began to settle down, as fences and crop fields sprang up around us, and we became less nomadic and more agrarian and urban, we still used walking as our primary mode of transportation. Modern day Amish, a pretty good example of how much walking we did in our pre-industrialized society, walk between 15,000 steps (women) and 19,000 steps (men) a day.

Almost all generations of humans have spent a good deal of time outdoors getting plenty of physical activity, mostly in the form of walking, gathering, hunting or gardening. The information age that started around 1975 changed how we spend most of our time. We sit, and we do it a lot. The average American spends about 12 hours a day sitting.

We sit when we’re commuting to work. Think of the irony of that; most of our traveling is done sitting still. Then we sit when we get to work. And, thanks to Amazon, we even sit when we’re hunting and gathering. It only takes one click and you get same-day delivery for free.

In our modern world of cars, internet, same-day delivery and uber eats, why would anyone ever need to walk? Truth is, most of us don’t walk very much at all. The average American walks about 5,117 steps a day, which is about 2.5 miles—a far cry from the 4 to 10 miles modern day hunter-gatherers walk. Less than 5,000 steps per day is considered sedentary, which puts the average American only 117 steps away from a step count that greatly increases their risk for all sorts of chronic diseases. Think about that the next time you circle the parking lot or take the elevator to go down one floor.

We’ve traded hunting for driving and gathering for clicking. The payoff has been heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

It’s time to start walking again. So, how much is enough? How many steps do you need? How much time should be spent walking each day? How fast should you walk?

My snarky answer to all of those questions is just start walking a lot more than you currently do. Our world is too obsessed with measuring and quantifying everything. We get too obsessed with how many steps we take, how fast we walk, and how far we walk. We have to have step counters and heart rate monitors. Oh, and we have to have special shoes for walking. And don’t forget, the right shorts and socks; those are important too.

In past 20 years we’ve come up with all sorts of technology to track our activity, monitor our heart rate, and count our steps. We’ve created all sorts of special shoes for walking, including those funny ones that work like a seesaw. We’ve also created apps on our phones to track almost everything we do. During that same time, the obesity rate in America has gone from 30.5% to 42.4%.

Our ancestors had none of the technology we have today to track their activity and they were lean, strong and healthy. They just got out and got after it. The best advice I can give anyone about walking is just get up, get out and walk a lot more than you currently do.

At minimum, make sure you are walking 30 minutes a day at for at least five days a week. You don’t have to do your 30 minutes all at once. Three 10-minute bouts of walking are just as beneficial to your health as one 30-minute bout. If you count steps, make sure you are getting at least 7,500 a day.

In addition to making sure you are meeting the minimum recommendations, do everything you can to add extra steps to your day.

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Choose the farthest spot away from the store in the parking lot.
  • If you are working from home, set an alarm so that every hour you take a 5-minute walk.
  • If you are on the phone, walk around during your conversation.
  • Push mow your lawn instead of riding or paying someone to do it.
  • Walk around your neighborhood every evening to check on your neighbors.
  • Walk for 10-minutes after every meal.
  • Go for a walk while you are waiting at your kid’s sports practice.

Just get out and walk. You’ll feel better, look better and be happier.

Stay Strong and Healthy,

Bo Railey