When was the last time you headed out for a nice, long walk? What prompted you to go? Do you go every day? Will you go again later today or will the one walk suffice?
Walking for your health is the number one exercise you can do for yourself. We hear this every day from doctors and health specialists, but do we simply hear it or do we do something about it? Perhaps our story will prompt you to give it a try.
Joe Quits Smoking
At 10 years of age, I had my first cigarette and although I was coughing and my throat was sore, I didn’t stop! At 18, I joined the navy and soon I was able to purchase a carton, yes a whole carton, for $1.00 and was smoking two packs per day. It was a love/hate relationship with nicotine. I was a walking stick: skinny, pale and coughing all of the time. No one had to tell me I was a mess, I knew it! Oh yes I tried to quit but something always got in the way. I would last perhaps eight hours and give up. Once, I quit for six months but the brain says, “go ahead, one will not hurt you!” but it did and I was right back to the two-pack-a-day habit.
I hated smoking. I would get out of bed in the morning and have coffee and a cigarette before heading out to work. There would be two more before I arrived and I was smoking all day. I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror while shaving. I had that “grey sickness” look; pale and ashen. One morning, I looked at my tongue and it looked like a brown shag carpet!
The Trigger to Stop
I believe that was the moment I decided I needed to quit. Walking for health hadn’t entered my mind as yet. I just had to quit or I was going to die. I looked around at my little family of four beautiful daughters and my gorgeous wife and made the decision: I would quit!
As I crossed over an intersection on my way home from work, I decided the date would be one week from now that I would smoke my last cigarette! Arriving home, I would let on I was sick and go directly to bed. I would stay in bed for three nights and on the fourth morning I would arise, tell Irma I would never smoke again, eat breakfast and go to work — that was my plan. Everything went off as planned and I was smoke free. That was 50 years ago!
So Now What?
The first evening, I arrived home from work and we ate supper. Afterward, I suggested we take the kids for a walk to get out of the house and away from any temptation to find a cigarette. We lived out in a very rural area without any street lighting. It was dark so we took along a flashlight to light up our way. It seems so short now but we walked along the road and went as far as our neighbors driveway where we turned around. Arriving home, I took the car and drove to where we had turned around and upon arriving home, I discovered we had walked half a mile. The next evening, we went to the next driveway past that one and within the week we were walking two miles each evening. The entire family loved the walks. Soon, we were walking the two miles to our church and back each Sunday.
Walking for health became a lifelong habit. I remember when fall arrived and the days grew short and the snows came to our area it became a little too dangerous to walk on the roadway. I decided I would walk in the woods on our little trails. Irma and I would head out in the pitch dark and set rabbit snares. We loved rabbit stew and enjoyed many great meals. Irma sort of lost her taste for rabbit after finding a rabbit in a snare that was caught by a leg and we had no choice but to put him out of his misery. I was feeling much better, color returned to my face, food tasted better and I no longer coughed my head off — it was amazing!
After a few months, Irma and I were walking five miles per day. The weather didn’t bother us. It had to be pretty bad for us to skip a walk. We were walking an average of 1,500 miles per year!
Walking in The City
Eventually, we arrived in the city. The health benefits of walking allowed us to not only work a full day but it was nothing for us to walk for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Walking on concrete was a little hard on the legs so we found out where the parks were and walking on the paths was easier.
We found a book on 109 hikes around Vancouver in British Columbia where we resided. Every Friday evening we would study the book, select a hike and on Saturday morning we would head out. The beauty of British Columbia is phenomenal! Soon, we began to take our backpacks and the tent and go for an overnight camping trip wherever we wanted. We loved those trips. Hiking in the mountains through the most incredible scenery was perfect. We loved the Whistler area of BC where the mountains go as high as 8,000 feet or more.
Feeling Great at 82 Years of Age
For all of these years, we have had great health. Walking for health has allowed us to stay healthy except for a few problems. We seemed to recoup our health quickly post-op. Irma had part of a lung removed and I had a hip replacement. Both of us were back walking in no time. I contracted Parkinson’s Disease about nine years ago. Apart from a tremor in one hand I have no other symptoms. Now is that because of our walking? Do I have some slow-moving type of Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s Disease and Walking
Most experts will agree that walking for health really works. By the time we are diagnosed with PD we have had the disease in our bodies for more than 10 years! Some experts believe we have it in our bodies for most of our lives. Physical walking gets everything within our bodies working as it should. When we walk, our bodies appear to enjoy it; our feet feel better and we may start out with a few kinks, feel sluggish or cool but, in less than five or six minutes, we warm up and perk up. Kinks, what kinks? The question becomes, do I have a slow-moving form of PD or has the lifetime of walking helped to keep the symptoms away, or under control?
A Lifetime of Fitness
Walking has a whole range of benefits. You get yourself a good pair of walking shoes and hit the trail. There isn’t any charge for walking because it is free. There are no green fees and no tennis court charges. Simply place one foot in front of the other and that’s it. The title of this post is, walking for your health — a truer statement has never been coined.