Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tip #6: Walk

Exercise is one of those things everyone agrees on: we need to do more of it. The human body was not built to sit around all day. But that's just the problem. Our modern world makes us sit around for huge chunks of our days. We sit at the office and then, we sit at home, exhausted from sitting at the office all day. Here's an article I read just last week about how by living in the suburbs our lives have become much more sedentary and the risky implications to our health that this has ("Communities learn the good life can be a killer"). During my own research about cancer, one thing I discovered is that exercise is as important as diet when it comes to preventing and slowing the disease, if not even more important. For middle-aged women, it is particularly important, as estrogen can hide in fat cells (but not in muscle) and excess estrogen can provoke breast cancer (like the type I have).

But now the question is, what kind of exercise and how much of it. In the book Anticancer (see Tip#5), I learned about the fascinating studies of Dr Ornish on early prostrate cancer (PDF link), and how some lifestyle changes were able to affect very favorably the progression of the disease. In that study, the patients were recommended, among some other changes, like a vegan diet, stress management techniques, etc, to walk 30 minutes 6 times a week. The more the patients adhered to their programs, the better their results.

And in this other article from the New York Times, "What's the single best exercise?" one of the answers is this: brisk, interval-style walking: three minutes of fast walking, followed by three minutes of slower walking, repeated 10 times. That is, 30 minutes walking.

So, armed with this information, I started going to the gym around 5 days a week and did the 30 minute interval in the treadmill (as in the pic) and then I would take a stroll with my family on weekends. But that was when I took the semester off and had a lot of time. When I went back to work, this was not going to work, so this is what I have been doing now. Three days a week, I park my car about a bit less than a mile from work. I then HAVE TO walk about 15 minutes to get to work and 15 minutes back to my car. I bought a cute, little backpack for my laptop and books, so I'm also doing some weight bearing exercise for my bones at the same time (more on this on another tip). Then, on two days I go to the gym and do the 30 minute interval. One day a week, I do yoga.

Last semester, this wasn't easy and I ended up not going to the gym at all. So, this year I learned about an iPhone App called GymPact and you make a "pact" with your own money to go the gym as much as you decide or you lose that money. I have to say, it has worked for me so far (I've been using it for 5 weeks now).

One more thing I'll say about walking is that I definitely feel an improvement in my mood when I'm able to walk like this. There is also a very strong link between exercise and mild depression and if not for anything else, I do believe it can really help to make you happier. Here's some more information about it.

I think this is easy and can be rewarding. So, remember, just walk!

Do you have any other tips we may all use?

Thanks for reading!