Why Walking is Good Medicine

March 1, 2016  by Dr. Suki Munsell

Supreme Corps…
Dr Suki pictured (in teal) with others getting back in stride including: Danny Dreyer, President and co-founder of ChiLiving, who teaches Chi Walking & Chi Running internationally; Dr. Robert Sallis, a family physician and sports medicine expert who prescribes walking as a front line medication to his patients; and Lauren DeLong, Founder and Owner of York Nordic, who uses Nordic poles to facilitate balance and foster recovery from illness or surgery.

Wellness through Walking
Perhaps you’ve noticed that our health care systems are slowly turning towards prevention and common sense approaches to wellness? The benefits of walking is part of the reason! Walking conferences in the 1990’s, sponsored by Prevention Magazine and Walking Magazine, focused on how to walk for health. The message has now taken root in American culture that brisk walking is good medicine. Walking has become a public health strategy.

Over the past twenty-five years, research studies validated this claim providing “irrefutable evidence for exercise in prevention of: diabetes mellitus, cancer (breast and colon), hypertension, depression, osteoporosis, dementia, coronary disease and lowers death rates from all causes.”¹

Physical Activity Guidelines
Health care systems, like Kaiser Permanente (with 10.2 million members in 620 clinics and 38 medical centers), are putting walking medicine to work. They counsel patients and staff to meet Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week. Their efforts are incentivized through Medicare payments.

Step it UP! – Your Call to Action
By September of 2015, our U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, issued a Call to Action to Step it UP! The focus has now shifted to creating walkable communities through out the country. In October of 2015, I attended the National Walking Summit in my hometown of Washington, D.C. The crisp autumn weather was perfect for 7 AM walks past leaping water fountains, through verdant well-tended parks tall with trees, around the brilliant white marble Capitol, the stately columned Supreme Court (pictured below) and the Senate Office buildings. As you can see in the accompanying photo, titled Supreme Corps, I relished getting back in stride with compatriots who also believe in the transformative power of walking.

Five hundred participants attended the Summit convened by Every Body Walk!, a national partnership of over 100 organizations including transportation, clinical services, municipal governments and environmental justice. The energy was high and continued to mount. We were the foot soldiers, the ground troops dedicated to creating healthy lives, healthier communities and a healthier America with equity for all – walking and rolling!

The Surgeon General addressed us. “The solution to the health care crisis is in this room,” he said, to our resounding applause, then shared this story. “Not everyone will heed the call,” he said. “There is a woman in south Florida who knows it’s good for her health but she still doesn’t walk. So I called her. (The audience, surprised by his action, waited for his next words.) I said… ‘Mom, (he paused for the us to laugh) I’ve just asked everyone in the country to walk. It won’t look good if you don’t walk.’ Now she walks every day! She calls me to report how she’s doing.”

7 Benefits you get from Walking

1. Walking has the lowest risk of injury of any exercise and all you need are shoes.
2. Walking builds vitality without draining it.
3. Much of life feels beyond control, but each time you walk, you exercise freedom.
4. Walking regulates weight and doesn’t make you hungry afterwards.
5. Walking connects you to the nature surrounding you and within you.
6. alking is multipurpose – for transportation, walking a dog, socializing and improving health.
7. Walkable communities are safer, often greener, reduce air pollution, more attractive to people and business, and improve socializing and livability.

Dr. Suki Suggests:
The most important reasons to walk are the ones you choose!

Use one or more reasons to walk briskly.
Repeat 5x a week for 30 minutes.
Walk Smart – Train with Us

If you are going to walk for health, learn to improve your efficiency through Dynamic WalkingSM. Maximize your benefits by prevent repetitive stress injuries. Grow lighter, taller, younger and stronger, step by step. Build Lifelong LegsSM².

¹ From a Kaiser Permanente slide presented at the Conference.
² Enroll in trainings and weekly walks.