To Your Health

A Miracle Cure... For Free?

Updated 47 weeks ago Peter McCarthy
Out for a Walk
Out for a Walk
Photo Credit: Pixabay / Creative Commons Licesnse

"A miracle cure," according to Great Britain's Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. and it's absolutely free. BMJ, a medical journal, doesn't go quite so far but says it's "the best buy for public health." And one other thing, it's simple.

Free and Easy, Walking to Better Health

No matter how you feel about exercise, compared with what doctors call, “sedentary death syndrome,” that is, the desultory condition commonly known as "couch potato," getting up on your feet's a damn good option.

Reporting that many of us are couch potato-ing ourselves to death rivals the "miracle cure" in seeming extreme, but not when you take a closer look.

And dramatic health benefits are extraordinarily easy to obtain and you might just enjoy getting healthier.

Nobody's suggesting you spend hours every week running. I used to do that and loved it, but somedays, especially in extreme hot or cold weather, it was hard.

And you don't have to go to the gym to pump iron.

Instead, take a brisk walk. Bring a friend. Enjoy the great outdoors on a bike or while watching a moving on a stationery bike. All you need to go is get your heart beating stronger for a little while.

"Thirty minutes a day, five times a week is an easy goal," and it's all you need, according to the American Heart Association.

They add, "You will also experience benefits even if you divide your time into two or three segments of 10 to 15 minutes per day."

What could be easier? Many of us spend more time looking at television commercials that assume we have the average IQ of a grape.

Living on Roosevelt Island, in New York City, I made a practice of walking to the subway on my way to my office every morning and retracing my steps in the evening. Easy as can be, and it helps build that buffer zone between work and the rest of your life.

That's all it took to meet the minimum daily requirement.

But when you realize, as Aaron E. Carrol points out in a New York Times Upshot Article, vacuuming your rugs or walking your dog may do the trick, too.

How Does Moderate Exercise Help?

The Academy report is as clear as it can be:

"Relatively low levels of increased activity can make a huge difference. All the evidence suggests small amounts of regular exercise brings dramatic benefits."

More specifically, "Regular exercise can prevent dementia, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, heart disease and other common serious conditions – reducing the risk of each by at least 30%."

And they point out, "This is better than many drugs." 

Cheaper too.

Carroll elaborates in The Times:

"Diuretic drugs (but not all drugs) were shown to be superior to exercise in preventing death from heart failure. But exercise was found to be equally good as drugs in preventing mortality from coronary heart disease. Exercise was better than drugs in preventing death among patients from strokes." 

"What other intervention" he asks, "can claim results like these?"

Conclusion

Skeptics raised their eyebrows when aspirin was discovered to be a "wonder drug," but the fact is as undeniable as is the mountain of evidence proving moderate exercise is a miracle cure for many health conditions as well as – and, to my way of thinking, more important – a powerful preventive.

Here in New York, we're luckier than much of America.

Among other things, we walk instead of driving as a normal way of getting around.

Once, when I lived upstate, I watched a man back his car half a block to go to a corner store, then return it to its parking place. This never happens in New York City because a) the parking space would disappear before he returned and b) the man would run the risk of being committed to a mental hospital.

We exercise moderately, just in the practice of living in this hyper busy urban space. It only takes a little more to get you where you need to go for dramatically improving your health.

Why not hop off the subway a block early and add a brisk walk instead? If you are lucky enough to own a dog, give your pet an extra long walk. You both benefit. (Full disclosure: you can walk your cat, too. I confess.)

If you hate network television, its obnoxious waves of commercials, the live bait of polarizing headlines, break the habit. Go out for a stroll or a bike ride instead. If you still want to watch, all those shows and their ads will be waiting when you return. They never go away.

Whatever alternative you chose, isn't it worth the effort to create a healthier, happier you? When you feel better, everything else in your life gets better. And it's so easy.

Big Pharma may not like your choices, but think about that extra cash burning a hole in your pocket as you walk off excess pound. Your own smile will help you forget all about them.

 
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