Back on July the 8th, a Saturday morning, I decided it was time for me to stop committing suicide by sitting (TM) and set aside a regular hour during which I would commit to getting some exercise. I chose walking. Believing that scheduling a time for the activity might make it more likely I’d notice that I should be doing some form of exercise at that time, I set the hour between 8 AM and 9 AM as my designated hour for exercise. Since then, I’ve been quite pleased that during the ensuing two months I’ve kept up the walking through my neighborhood with good regularity. (I’ve missed walking on only two days in the last 62.)
Sometime during the month of August, I decided to purchase a pedometer and wear it to make sure I was covering at least the recommended 10,000 steps required each day to maintain good health. I wore that pedometer for a number of days before finally deciding that the hoops through which I had to jump to keep it level around my waist throughout my walk, something that is required for an accurate reading, just weren’t worth it. However, the pedometer did provide me with one bit of interesting, if indirect, information as a result of having worn it for the few days that I did. I used the number of steps taken during one of my walks times the length of my stride to compute the approximate distance I traveled each day. It turns out that my route around my neighborhood is approximately 3.9 miles, which I cover in somewhere between 60 and 75 minutes. When I first began walking, it was closer to 75 minutes each day, and as I’ve gained stamina, the time required has moved closer to 60 minutes, though it still takes more than an hour each day. I usually plan on 75 minutes for my walk, frequently leaving the house at 7:45 AM and getting back before 9:00 AM. As a result of this exercise, I can tell a significant difference already, not so much in my weight or my girth, but in terms of my heart rate, my respiration and the lack of pain I feel upon climbing the hills.
On one of those recent days in August during which the heat index rose to well above 100 in the afternoons, I decided that it was just too hot to go out for my walk, even early in the morning. So I decided to do like the other senior citizen exercisers and go to West Town Mall and walk in the air conditioning for an hour or so. I have never been so bored in my life! The flat terrain and the sameness of the route (I had to walk around the outer perimeter of the Mall 5 times to achieve my 75 minute walk) were like driving across Nebraska or Kansas longing to see a hill. Oh, there were people to watch and merchandise in the store windows, but by the second lap, my mind was aching with boredom from the sameness of the scenery and the lack of challenge from the flat terrain. I decided then and there that sweating up and down the hills in my neighborhood, no matter how hot it was, was much better than walking at the Mall. I’ll reserve the Mall option to be used only for the absolutely coldest days of winter when walking outdoors is unbearably brutal.
Another unanticipated benefit I’ve discovered from my daily walks is that it helps me interact with my neighbors. Not since my two dogs, Rocky and Bruno, died back in 2003 have I spoken to or been spoken to by my neighbors so much. The dogs gave me a reason to be out of doors in the neighborhood, of course, as I gave them their daily walks for exercise and potty breaks, and hence they caused me to be seen by my neighbors and gave me the chance to interact with them periodically. Now, walking through the neighborhood for exercise serves that same function.