“Oh my aching back!” “When I get up from a chair, I can barely move.” “I was bending down the other day to put a pot away and suddenly I heard a pop.” These are typical comments from those suffering from implacable back pain.
A few years ago, I did a story on back problems and discovered one of the best ways to ward off back problems is really very simple: Take a walk. Apparently hoofing it strengthens stomach and back muscles and bones and keeps your heart rate up doing something aerobic that isn’t stressful on your body as in ruined knees and injured hips. Walking has been known to trim legs and tummies, boost vitamin D and your immune system, and it will make you feel good, which is reason enough to pound the pavement. Equally important for me, walking is free and unpretentious. It doesn’t require fancy clothing or equipment, no membership fees, sweaty machines or group exercise unless you walk with others. In that case, walking is social, another benefit. What a great way to “walk” things off your chest.
Just slather sunscreen on your arms, legs and other exposed body parts, don a hat and shades, and a pair of good, properly fitting tennis shoes to avoid blisters, shin splints and calluses… and march forward. Although many people track of their miles on their phones or steps on a Fitbit, I find this makes me neurotic akin to getting on a scale every morning to check one’s weight. I just clock my time with most walks between 30 to 45 minutes, six days a week.
And so I got going.
For me, it’s the only form of exercise that I continually enjoy. Getting outside and really looking at the landscape or smelling the roses, if you will, is a treat without calories. Equally important, it’s alone time as in time for me to think. I leave the phone and ear buds behind. And as I walk, I often come up with some of my best ideas. I’ve rewritten leads, come up with clever headlines, branded ideas and topics for articles and even books.
Ok. The downside. Beware of other walkers who might be clueless about who is in their space as they text on cell phones. Watch out for runners who can elbow you as they race past, skate boarders, bikers as they whiz by without looking at who’s in front of them, and most dangerous of all, drivers who don’t spot you crossing the street.
You’re probably wondering what to do when weather doesn’t permit a brisk stroll outside unless you are immune to the elements, as many compulsive walkers tend to be. I am not one of those people. The solution: I walk inside on a treadmill while watching an old Barbara Stanwyck or Bette Davis movie. At times, I’ll listen to Terry Gross’ “Fresh Air on NPR. Some walkers I know can walk and read on a treadmill at the same time burning calories as they feast on the latest, most delicious issue of "People" magazine. If you don’t have access to a treadmill, mall it. This can be quite pleasant. You’ll wave at others who have the same idea and maybe make a new friend or two in the process. And if you go up and down stairs when it's a multi-level mall, all the better. Climbing stairs is the best. But when malling it, there is one unhealthy temptation. I like to head to the nearest cookie counter or candy store to reward myself for my super workout.
And now after a leisurely morning of reading the paper and enjoying a cup of coffee, I am headed out the door to....you guessed it, take a walk. Who knows? Perhaps today I’ll come up with our next great idea for a book.