Here at Whitaker Wellness, exercise is part of the fabric of day-to-day life. It’s an integral therapy for all patients, and one they engage in daily while they’re at the clinic. The program we prescribe is simple, convenient, inexpensive, and pleasant: It’s walking.
The benefits of walking are boundless. Walking tones the largest muscles of your body and helps keep off excess weight. It gets your heart rate up and enhances circulation. It strengthens your bones and heart, improves mood and sleep, and lowers blood sugar and triglycerides—all at minimal risk of injury.
At the clinic, we encourage our patients to take a 10-minute walk after meals. This is particularly important for people with diabetes because it helps clear glucose out of the bloodstream. We also encourage everyone to walk on their own whenever possible, and to do this we use what is possibly the most powerful of all motivators: competition.
Up Your Walking Game With a Pedometer
Upon arrival, each patient is given a pedometer—a small electronic gadget that tracks the number of steps taken throughout the day. Studies indicate that simply wearing a pedometer significantly increases the amount of walking people do, and that is certainly the case at the clinic.
During the Back to Health Program, our patients stay at the nearby Wyndham Hotel, but have their therapies and appointments at the clinic. The distance between the two facilities is 1.5 miles. If you walk from the hotel to the clinic and back once a day, and participate in the after-meal walks, you’re logging well over three miles!
To persuade our patients to walk as much as possible, every week we award prizes—books, vitamins, and the like—for the first-, second-, and third-highest pedometer readings. The real prize, of course, is the realization of how easy it is to maintain a walking program and the recognition of the tremendous health benefits of walking. However, you’d be surprised at how competitive people get when we turn walking into a “race.”
And the Winner Is…
When Ed S. from Grafton, OH, first arrived at the clinic, winning a walking contest was out of the question. Adverse drug interactions had left him weak and easily fatigued. Nevertheless, he put on his pedometer every morning as instructed. The first day, Ed chocked up just 1,213 steps. But as his treatment course progressed, his strength and energy began to return—and his pedometer showed it. He gradually built up to a record high of 14,160 steps in a single day, and his two-week total was an impressive 104,328 steps—more than 81,000 of them in the second week alone.
The average person covers one mile in 2,000 steps. This means Ed accrued a little over 40 miles during his second week, or an average of nearly six miles a day. If he keeps it up, he could log more than 2,000 miles in a year!
Most people tick off 1,000 to 3,000 steps per day going to and from the car, strolling outside, and moving around the house. If you get that many steps just hanging out, think how many you can add by making a concerted effort to take the stairs, run errands on foot, or park in the far reaches of the lot.
But to really bump it up—a reasonable goal is 10,000 steps—it’s obvious that you’ll need to incorporate walks or jogs into your daily routine. It doesn’t take as much time as you’d think. At a brisk pace, the average person can walk three miles, or 6,000 steps, in about an hour.
Walk Your Way to Better Health
I know that not all of you are able to benefit from the motivation that the group experience of a week or two at Whitaker Wellness provides, so I’d like to issue a little walking challenge. Here’s how it’ll work.
Pick up a pedometer at a drugstore or sporting goods outlet. (A fitness tracker is another great option. See box below.) Select a two-week period in the upcoming weeks, and mark it on your calendar. On your designated start date, put on your pedometer first thing in the morning and get moving. Before retiring, write down the number of steps you’ve taken that day, and reset the pedometer. Do this every day for two consecutive weeks.
At the end of two weeks, tally up your steps and record (1) the number of steps you took in the entire period, (2) the number taken during each of the two weeks, (3) your average number of steps per day, (4) the number in your single best day, and (5) any comments you have about the experience and any health benefits of walking you experienced over this time.
Send this information to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured in an upcoming blog! Increase your chances by sending a picture of you in action. Now, get out there and get walking!
Fitness trackers—wearable devices that track your daily activity—are all the rage these days. You can get a basic model that counts steps, calories, distance, and tells time for around $15 online. Higher end models that collect more data such as heart rate, sleeping patterns, temperature, and more can run upwards of $100-plus. Most of the newer fitness trackers can either be plugged into a computer or linked wirelessly to a smart phone or tablet to more accurately track data. Whether you choose a simple pedometer or a fitness tracker with more bells and whistles, the concept is the same. They make you more aware of how active you are—and can help motivate you to get moving.