Walk Hard

My neighbor asked for helped yesterday, needing some heavy suitcases carried upstairs from his basement. He’d just returned from a great trip, it sounds like, although he developed a sore upper back and was in some discomfort. Not in any shape to haul suitcases up a narrow staircase and think this was a good idea.

So I walked over to give him a hand, not a problem. They were fairly heavy and that staircase is no fun to negotiate, and when I reached the top and carried on our conversation, I noticed some shortness of breath when I spoke.

This alarmed me, in a funny way. I rarely do the kind of exertion required to get out of breath, apparently. I do yard work, and use weights and resistance bands during the week to try to keep from getting any weaker, although not reliably and anyway, that’s not a lot of exertion.

And as soon as I noticed that I was huffing a tiny bit, I stopped. Just to reassure myself that I hadn’t suddenly had a decrease in exercise tolerance, leading to my impending diagnosis of whatever and then death.

It’s because I’ve been walking for-freaking-ever. I started in 2007 and haven’t stopped, and after a while I just lapsed into brisk because it was something to do. A few years ago, I even had my Runkeeper app start giving me audio cues to pick up the pace, and I could average 14 minutes per mile over many miles. That’s more than brisk, even, although I got over it. I’m way too lazy for that.

Still, I worry a lot about slipping into a sedentary lifestyle and honestly? I feel pretty sedentary most of the time, even with the walking. But you can’t walk all day long, at least not the way I walk. It’s deliberate, definitely exercise, with a set start and finish.

Anyway, this article cheered me up today, as I cheer up sometimes when I realize I’ve stumbled into a way of life that might actually be good for me. I was just trying to burn calories, back in the day, and then realized I enjoyed getting out there and walking around. Turned out it might be good for me, go figure.

Seriously, this feels ironic but I’ll say it anyway. According to this article, the statistical good news is that daily brisk walking seems to promote all sorts of good health stuff, from longevity to lack of disease, and it has little if anything to do with weight. When I walked 30 miles across Seattle four years ago, I weighed 35 pounds more than I do now and I’m thinking I was in pretty good shape.

Also according to this article, the definition of brisk is around 3 miles per hour. This is not very fast and pretty easy to accomplish, assuming you don’t have a physical disability. It’s very doable. I would know.

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I see a bunch of articles about biological versus chronological age these days. There seems to be confusion in the culture, as demographics change and America ages, and people have questions. We’ve already seen evidence of exercise on longevity and overall health; those people who were young adults in the 1970s when jogging and running came into fashion, and who never stopped doing it, are now being studied and observed. There does seem to be an anti-aging miracle drug and it does seem to be daily exercise.

I’m not that interested in the longevity aspect, as this is just trying to tweak the odds. There are a thousand things that can kill us; exercise won’t prevent ALS, or stop the car that runs a red light.

But as long as you’ve got your health, right? Quality of life is what we’re aiming for and it’s a pretty big target. What the scale says (or the mirror) might be irrelevant, at least up  to a point.

Eh. I’ve never been able to find the words. I started this walking thing when I was 49, and it made living through my 50s so much easier. According to the above article, by the time I reached 60 I was maybe 20 years younger in biological terms. I have no idea what this is based on and I don’t treat it as gospel (what would I do differently anyway?), but I don’t mind hearing it.

I was seriously overweight and sedentary and at least occasionally a smoker and I’m none of those things now, not for years. I just learned how to walk, funny.

Chuck SigarsComment