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Time to Get Moving

Can we prevent disease with, well, movement?

We now know that walking is hugely beneficial to our physical health and mental well-being. With mounting evidence telling us walking in nature is even better, what are we waiting for? Pick a path, take in the fresh air and beautiful surroundings, and let the goodness soak in.

We now know that walking is hugely beneficial to our physical health and mental well-being. With mounting evidence telling us walking in nature is even better, what are we waiting for? Pick a path, take in the fresh air and beautiful surroundings, and let the goodness soak in.

Three times a week, Monument resident Patti Farley-Barker, 63, dons her outdoor gear and goes for a hike—sometimes with family, sometimes with friends, and sometimes just with her dogs. 

“I never tire of it,” she says. “I think it’s so important to keep the core strong, to move the body, and, for me, to be outside. I’ve talked with friends who’ve been through difficult health challenges and who had to stop exercising for a time. They’ve told me it’s so hard to start back up again. They tell me to just keep moving, and I take that to heart.”

Patti’s heart will thank her. And, according to a number of health studies, so will her brain, her blood pressure, her body mass index, and, well, the list goes on.

According to the “Everybody Walk Campaign,” walking just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, halves the odds of catching a cold, improves blood pressure by five points, boosts endorphins, builds bone mass, reduces glaucoma risk, strengthens legs, halves Alzheimer’s risk over five years, and burns more fat than jogging—for starters.

And get this: A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, and Pacific Northwest Research Station says research suggests that walking in nature can add greatly to good health. “A monthly trip in nature could provide maintenance levels of cells that work to prevent cancer generation and development...Breathing in antimicrobial compounds found in the essential oils of trees increases relaxation and improves stress management, resulting in increased vitality and less anxiety, depression, and anger.”

Dr. Ryan Betz, chiropractor and owner of Radix Chiropractic in Colorado Springs, is in the business of keeping the human body in optimal functioning condition through nerve pathway adjustment. “Movement is life,” says Betz. “It is the physical movement and activity of the body that produces healthy movement patterns of the spinal column. When the spine receives healthy movement, there is a proprioceptive input [the sense that tells the body where it is in space] into the brain that stimulates brain activity, recharges the brain, and results in increased function of the body systems.

“Without movement, the vitality of our body is lessened, and chronic disease will begin to plague us. Our body was designed and created to be a self-healing, self-regulating, and self-adapting organism.”

A sedentary lifestyle, says Betz, can compromise the intricate brain–body connection. “When nerve pathways become interfered with from vertebral subluxation [an out-of-alignment spinal column] the health of the body is diminished, and our body tissue cells and systems begin to show signs of malfunction, damage, and, eventually, symptoms.”

Betz is but one of a large group of health practitioners touting the benefits of physical activity—simply moving the body on a regular basis. It seems we don’t have to be elite athletes to reap huge health rewards. Taking a quick walk around the block after a meal, logging a few flights of stairs doing laundry, making sure we get up and move often rather than sitting for hours at a time—all have a significant positive impact. Seems do-able.

And if we don’t? “The body rapidly maladapts to insufficient physical activity and, if continued, results in substantial decreases in both total and quality years of life,” according to a National Institutes of Health article published in Comprehensive Physiology. “Physical inactivity,” reads the article, “is a primary cause of most chronic diseases…Chronic disease need not be an inevitable outcome during life.”

Is it time to get moving? Go ahead, grab those walking poles, and head outside. As Farley-Barker says, “Go as far as you want and have time for. It’s moving that’s the point, feeling good, enjoying the glorious day. And if you hike with friends sometimes, it’s also cheap therapy!” 

Did you know?

Scientific findings* have shown that…

• mile for mile, brisk walking can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease as much as running.

• sitting for long periods has many adverse effects on the body, including reducing the ability of arteries to relax and contract, which increases cardiovascular risk over the long term. Taking five-minute walking breaks every hour or so can prevent this sitting-induced arterial stiffening.

• walking after meals helps control blood sugar in inactive older people with prediabetes. Three 15-minute walks a half hour after meals is better for 24-hour blood sugar control than a single 45-minute daily session.

• people with chronic kidney disease who walked regularly were half as likely to die during a one-year period than those who rarely walked and less likely to need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

• for people with chronic low back pain, walking can be as beneficial as a strength-training program targeting abdominal and back muscles. Walkers benefited more from regular walking (three times a week for four weeks) than from using a treadmill, largely because of the different biomechanics involved.

• people with or at high risk for knee osteoarthritis who took at least 6,000 steps daily were less likely to develop mobility problems two years later.

• walkers experience a boost in creative thinking during and right after walking (especially outdoors).

*Source: Berkeley Wellness, University of California, 2016