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Walking and Your Health

Nothing can keep me away from my daily walk. Cold weather or hot weather, rain or shine, I’m up and about for my daily walk, as if my life depended on it, pardon the soapbox.

I was a walking person once. We all were back in the province. When I went to work in the big city, however, I stopped the walking habit altogether.

Now I am back to being a walking person again. The reason is because five years ago, I found out that each time I’d walk even a few blocks I would feel very tired. I tried to ignore the feeling and hoped the tiredness would go away. But it did not. On the contrary, it got worse, until I could no longer walk more than two blocks without pausing to rest, clutching at my chest area. I visited my doctor, and landed on the operating table for an emergency triple bypass.

By the grace of God, the surgery was successful. But what I soon realized during the months of recovery was that I needed a serious lifestyle change, or rather, a return to the good old habits of my childhood years in the province.

The idea came to me because when I was convalescing, I remembered Henry David Thoreau and his two-year stay in a cabin at Walden Pond. Apart from his famous book Walden, Thoreau wrote an essay on Walking, about his search for a purposeful life, as he walked in the meadows and mountain trails, away from the big cities.

So I read his essay on Walking again and was convinced it was my sedentary lifestyle that led to this mess. I had no exercise. My cholesterol was up. My blood pressure was high. Fast foods were my habitual meals. Coca cola was my water since college days. As a result, I suffered from diabetes, which led to coronary problems.

The multiple blockages in my heart did not just manifest overnight. My poor health was a result of many a poor choice over the course of my adult lifetime. I was faced with a decision. Either to change my lifestyle and eating habits or face the consequences of another trip to the emergency room.

I chose to change my lifestyle. But I soon found out I could not change overnight. I had to be realistic. It took years to get me to the point of dis-ease; it would have to take some time to get onto the proper road to a healthier lifestyle again. So I developed a new mantra: one step, one meal, one day at a time. As the saying goes, a thousand miles begins with the first step.

The first thing I did was to search the internet on the right foods to eat. The next was to talk to my doctor about the foods that I had in mind.

More important, I went back walking. One block a day gradually turned into a few blocks a day after a month.

I had to do it gradually because I wasn’t used to the habit anymore. When I transferred from the province to Manila, I’d commute by jeepney even if the distance were only three blocks away.

How different it was back then in the province where I did my business in rugged terrains where no land transportation was available.

“Sarong sigarilyo lang,” was the standard answer I’d receive when asking how far to my destination.

Come to think of it, people in the provinces especially in areas not accessible by mass transit are far healthier compared to those living in Manila largely because they walked more.

Be that as it may, walking has been the greatest medicine towards my full recovery. From my personal experience, walking has lowered my blood pressure, lowered my blood sugar (with no more medications), lowered my cholesterol, boosted my energy, made me think more clearly and creatively. Aristotle must have subscribed to the latter because he’d often lectured while walking with his students in the covered walks of the Lyceum. Truth to tell, it even brought me closer to God with Whom I’d always talk to when I walked. It goes with the package.

I understand what I have just written may be easier said than done. Its reason for sharing is the fervent hope that this little piece could at least help the reader who’s gone through the same predicament that I did. It helps if you invest in a pedometer to monitor your steps, but it is not a necessity. My personal goal is to hit more than 10,000 steps a day.

It’s been almost five years now since I re-discovered the boons of walking. I wish you’d re-discover it, too. Apart from Aristotle, many great persons have been great walkers: William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, Albert Einstein, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Immanuel Kant, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, to name a few.

We, walkers, are not in bad company. For once again:

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, “unless I spend four hours a day at least . . . sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”

The joys of walking.

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