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The Wonders of Walking

January 21

There’s a great little YouTube clip called 23-1/2 Hours which I came across the other day:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo

In it Doc Mike Evans talks about an “intervention”  which is known to improve knee arthritis by 47%, reduce dementia occurrence by 50% and diabetes by 58%, anxiety by 48% and depression by 47%, is the number one treatment for fatigue and the best way to improve quality of life.  What is this miracle cure?  This “intervention” turns out to be exercise – in particular walking. 

Imagine a pharmaceutical that had that kind of effect on disease and ill health, with no side effects.  We’d all be clamouring for it.  But because it’s free and no-one can patent it, it very often gets overlooked.  Or the “exercise” gets turned into sessions you have to pay for at the gym which many people find too boring and alienating to bear.  (I have to admit to being one of those!) 

Doc Evans says that only 30 minutes of exercise (walking) a day makes a measurable difference to people’s overall fitness level, thus reducing their risk of developing many of the modern diseases.  There’s also a lot of recent research showing that recovery from cancer and the likelihood of remaining in remission thereafter are also improved by exercise.  It used to be that “rest” was the mantra after having surgery or chemotherapy, but now the evidence seems to suggest that moderate exercise is a better way to go.

As someone who has been through the whole cancer journey myself 8 years ago, I well remember how poisoned and lethargic chemotherapy left you feeling – and yet struggling out for a gentle walk by a river or through the woods or out to Buckland Beacon brought perspective and refreshment and hope, as well as the obvious physical benefits.  At the end of the walk I felt a bit tired – but properly tired rather than the fatigue that comes with inactivity and ill health.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said that “Walking is man’s best medicine” (and I’m sure that applies to women too! )   Over millions of years, our bodies have evolved to walk a lot, and to this day it helps reduce stress and improve mental function.  Many artists, philosophers and scientists value their daily walk for the chance to think, the insights that come when your body is moving and your senses engaged.  I’ve had lots of ideas when out walking alone (including the one to set up this business and encourage more people to take to the moor on foot). 

This blog on Psychology Today has lots more about why daily exercise is the wonder drug of the modern age:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mind-wellness-awareness/201212/the-daily-walk

If you can’t manage a daily walk (most people can fit at least 30 minutes in somewhere), consider coming out with one of my groups on Dartmoor.   Good company, beautiful scenery and exercise – and once you’ve done a few walks with us, it should give you confidence to do more on your own.

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