My father exercised his whole life until a severe car accident at age 70. The antibiotic he took to save him destroyed his inner ear equilibrium — to prevent feeling dizzy, he had to hold his head very still. No tennis, no golf, no dancing. He became deeply depressed and lost his zest for life. His muscles began to wither and the gaunt look of death spread across his face.
One evening, after massaging his listless body, I said to him, “Dad, I’m so sorry that your life is tough right now. But I must tell you, at the rate you are losing muscle mass, pretty soon you may be too weak to raise yourself out of a chair or even walk. I understand if you choose to end this way, but remember, however you play this end game, you are still a role model for your children and grandchildren.”
He walked his way back into life. The next day, Dad went with my sister to buy an exercise bike. A few months later he bought a treadmill. Not because he liked exercise. He hated exercise, but he loved life, and took seriously his role of stewardship of his family. He returned to exercise, and remained active for the next twenty years, staying involved in family, social and civic life until his death at age 90. Of his many charities, one became raising funds for victims of ALS. “Their problems make mine feel inconsequential,” he said. “Helping others always helps ourselves.”
Exercise is not just about your own health. Self-care is a gift to everyone who knows you, especially your mate, children and grandchildren — even to your friends and your community. Wouldn’t you want to save loved ones weeks of hospital visits, months of caring for you in a wheelchair, and years of worry if you could? You can.
The statistics are in. A study in the United Kingdom found that “just 25 minutes of brisk walking a day can add up to seven years to your life, according to health experts.” You can even cut your brisk walking into two 15 minute intervals. “Walking is as close to a magic pill as we have,” says one researcher. “Just thirty minutes of walking each day is enough to dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, and dementia.”
Former United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in his 2015 call to action enumerated the following benefits of brisk walking (30 minutes a day for adults – 60 minutes for children):
Suki Munsell, Ph.D.
July 13, 2017