Growing up, I was one of those clutzy kids who got great grades but broke out in a cold ternweat when it was time for gym class. I hated everything about gym, from the goofy outfits to the embarrassing showers to the awkward exercises conducted by a stern-faced matron with a whistle around her neck. She always looked mad to me, and exercise seemed anything but pleasurable.
It never occurred to me that my love of bike riding and roller- skating constituted exercise. I did those things because they were fun. Some of my friends loved to dance, and others played ball every night on the empty lot down the street.
Healthy movement is whatever you love to do with your body. Most exercise programs fail because they are expensive, or involve buying clothes for the gym, or create some kind of performance anxiety. If you suffer from any kind of body image issue, here’s good news. Healthy movement is free.
The most common and effective form of exercise in the United States is walking. Simply increasing the number of steps you take per day can significantly impact the prevention and treatment of many major diseases including high blood pressure, some forms of cancer, cardio-vascular disease, depression and anxiety, among many others.
Adults who walk 30 minutes per day, five days a week, also report increased ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Walking requires no special equipment or fitness membership. Getting started is as easy as walking out the front door and down the block. When you get tired, even after five minutes, turn around and come back. Each time you leave the house, walk a little farther and notice how you feel.
One way to increase walking is to park further from the grocery store or library. Instead of circled the parking lot until you find the closest slot, park further away and walk the extra steps. You’ll be surprised at how the extra steps add up.
If you live in a place where the weather is often terrible, rainy, snowy or oppressively hot or cold, walk in your house. You can stand and walk in place while on the phone or watching television. Walking in place during an evening cop show gives you a free, one-hour walk.
As you begin to walk, consider other ways of moving in the world that bring you pleasure and then do that thing. Your body and your life will thank you.