“Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” — Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion, translated from Latin
A body in motion stays in motion.
Converted into modern English, the more your body stays in motion by activity and exercise, the more it stays healthy. — Dr. Joe’s first law of human motion
I used to think walking, in place of running, was for the infirm who had bad knees and blocked coronary arteries. Like in so many things, I was dead wrong.
Walking is a treasure lost to many. It is as if there had been an ancient civilization with the secret of long life. The legend was this mysterious dynasty had a fountain of youth. These people’s language was lost to translation. Then a Rosetta Rock was unearthed that permitted their tongue to be finally understood. Brilliant minds deciphered the scratches on the tablet. “The fountain of youth is walking.” People were extremely disappointed. There was no new secret.
What brought me around to believe in walking was a trip with a friend who loves to hike. He runs the trails and has summited a local peak 12 consecutive months. If you do your math, you know many of those months were when the top was hidden by snow. He was like a postman on his rounds. Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail nor heat stopped him.
While he likes to walk vertically, we don’t have to. Walking on a flat surface is just fine. When you hang out with my friend, he encounters others who like to walk, as well. We met a couple from the Boston area who over a span of three years had hiked more than 500 miles along the coast of England. They plotted their course on a national pathway, and booked different bed and breakfasts 18 times. A van moved their luggage ahead while they walked.
The problem with telling about the star performers is it gives the excuse to not try. There is a combination of not thinking you can and thinking that who would want to. Don’t lose faith. Start with either the left or the right foot and just go. Begin with walking around the house, then the street and then the block and then the neighborhood. Save southwest England or the Alps for later.
An important medical study on the subject of walking was published some time ago.
It concluded that if a person walked for 150 minutes per week, the chance of getting diabetes drops dramatically. Before you think 150 minutes is to the moon and back, all that means is for us to walk 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening five days a week.
For school kids, measure the distance in minutes of walking from the school and leave them there and pick them up in the afternoon at the same spot. We can’t count the distance between the sofa and the TV. For the businessman, jump off the light rail two stops earlier. Carpool with a friend who lives or works 15 minutes from you. Park a couple of blocks away from the job. Count the minutes from church to home or home to church.
Get our bodies in motion and stay in motion. Sir Isaac would be pleased.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing pediatrician for 30 years and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.