By MATTHEW NASH
Several weeks back I wrote about some health concerns that came to light after some test that I had run. I have had some time to alter my behavior and I have shown some improvements, but I still have some work to do. The problems that I am experiencing are the results of years of not taking the best care of myself so they will not be corrected overnight.
One of the major concerns of my test results was my cholesterol level. I was given a prescription of a cholesterol lowering drug as one of the steps toward improvement. One concerned reader questioned whether my health care provider just recommended “the drug” to improve my cholesterol. She was very concerned with my behavior, including what I ate and what I did toward meeting some goals that we set.
While changing my diet and improving what I eat is very important, I also needed to make exercise an important part of my daily life. She insisted that just by walking I would go a long way to getting to where I need to be.
As many people do when the new year rolled in I made a resolution to “exercise more.” At first I didn’t have a plan, but shortly discovered a motivation. A friend of mine was a member of a group that had formed on the social network site Facebook and I thought it seemed like an interesting challenge for me.
The group is 250/500/750/1,000 Mile Challenge 2013. The idea is to pick a goal, and keep track of the miles you travel whether it be “run/bike/walk/hike/hip/crawl for 500 or 1,000 miles over the course of 2013, and to encourage others along the way.” On New Year’s Day this seemed like an interesting idea and I thought I would at least give it a try, what harm could come from this.
The group has 98 members who are all at different levels of commitment to this program. The idea is for everyone to set a goal and throughout the year keep the group updated on your daily totals as well as your progress for the year. While I have been doing better on my commitment to exercising, I have been poor in my commitment to this group. I know I can do better and I plan to keep better track of my progress.
Traveling 1,000 miles under your own power may seem like an intimidating goal to set for yourself until you take a close look at the math. To accomplish your goal in a year’s time you would have to average a little over 2.7 miles per day. You could easily walk that far in around 45 minutes at a fairly casual pace. If you worked your way up to jogging you could easily do it in less than 30 minutes. Riding a bike most people could get it done in around 15 minutes.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week for a healthier lifestyle. That would put the goals of this group right in line with their recommendations.
If you think that you cannot fit a few hours of exercise into your week, take a few days and keep a log of all the things you do. I am sure that most people could find something that they could cut back on to make room for a few minutes a day of exercise. According to Nielsen the average American over the age of 2 spends more than 34 hours a week watching television.
I have not been very diligent in my posting in the group, but I have been doing a pretty good job of tracking my mileage. I used my phone to calculate the distance of a couple of different routes that I take and I record them in a pocket calendar. As of writing this column I am at 176 miles for 2013. These miles come from about 60 percent walking and 40 percent bike riding.
The 176 miles puts me at 824 left for the year which means I am under my daily pace requirement. I always assumed that I would do the bulk of my mileage during the warmer months of the year so I will need to pick up the pace for the next several months. To make my goal for the rest of the year I have to average about 3.5 miles per day. Hopefully with a few long bike rides I can get my average daily pace a little lower.
Walking just a little bit every day will go a long way to improving your overall health and nearly everyone can do it. Walking is an exercise that you don’t need any special equipment to accomplish many of your goals. Walking is enjoyable and so simple that you can stick with it easily which is the downfall of many exercise programs.
Everyone should do what they can to try to be more active. Setting goals and being accountable for those goals is a good start. Walking 1,000 miles may seem like more than you could possibly accomplish, but it becomes easier if you just take the first steps.
— Matthew Nash can be reached at dmatthewnash @gmail.com