Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Importance of Exercise

Recently I heard that walking is done less by people in the United States than any other country in the world. In fact, the report stated that less that 13% of Americans walk on a regular basis. I didn't hear the whole report, just this little bit of information, but I'm sure it didn't include the walking we do to and from our cars or to the refrigerator to get a bowl of ice cream. I wonder if walking up and down an escalator counts?

I think probably most writers or office workers don't get enough exercise, and I'm probably one of them since writing is a sedentary job. Even much of our social interaction is done sitting at a computer or on a phone. And the times we meet family and friends in person; usually it's to go to lunch or dinner, or maybe to a movie, concert or the theater. More sitting.

I'll admit I've never liked the bend and stretch and other boring types of exercises. Years ago I'd sometimes exercise with some TV guru. It never lasted. I had a cheap treadmill once, but found that monotonous, too. When I had a stationary bike in my laundry room, I'd peddle away on that for a half hour every day watching Jeopardy on a small TV over my sewing machine. But that was years ago in another house and another time. I have no room for exercise equipment in this house, and going to a gym doesn't appeal. The closest one is almost ten miles away and rather expensive, and I neither want to spend the time nor the money going there.

However, the one exercise I do enjoy is walking. Every morning I go for a walk in my woods that lasts a half hour or more, and if I go beyond my woods, it's much longer. The only time I skip my morning walk is if I need to be somewhere else early, or it's raining hard, or the snow is too deep, or the temperature is in the teens with a wind chill factor much lower. I use two walking sticks. They're old broom handles, nothing fancy about them. The walking sticks serve several purposes. First, they help me stay upright when I trip over roots hidden under leaves. Second, I can swoop them in front of me those times of the year when spiders or little green worms booby trap the trails with their webs. This lessens having webs decorating my face and hair. Third, the sticks help propel me along and work to bolster my upper body strength. It's not that I need them for propulsion, but I'm always forgetting to use the little hand held barbells in the house to build muscles in my arms. Every little bit helps, in my opinion.

All the years of camping with my family; husband, kids, parents and younger siblings, always included a lot of hiking. We'd take at least one trail in the morning and usually another one later in the day. To this day, all my siblings like to walk, as does my youngest daughter, Mary. When I go to California to visit her, she always plans hikes for every day, often in a redwood forest. When my siblings and I get together for camping trips every year, hikes are a definite part of the activities. My youngest brother is even a marathon runner - an extreme form of walking, I'd say. He'd probably be horrified that I'm relating what he does to walking, but marathon runners do slow to walking at times during a race.

Other exercises of mine are carrying buckets of water to ponies and chickens, cleaning stalls several times a week and sometimes shoveling snow in the winter. But my exercise level really increases in the spring and summer. Then it's spading the vegetable bed (I never can get my little tiller started), planting, weeding and mowing (not with a riding mower, either) and so many other yard and garden chores. All this cuts in on my writing time, but I consider it helping me to live longer. So in the long run, I'll have more years to write. Did I mention before that I'm an optimist?

What do you do for exercise? Do you think you get enough exercise?


Anonymous said...

Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, Washington is where I enjoy regular walks for exercise and presumably all the health benefits in an effort to counteract ten hour work days that don't include the additional two+ hours of daily commuting time. Since I work in an office with most of the time at the desk or computer this is a whole lot of bottom-time.

Point Defiance is a magnificent 700 acre urban park of old and second growth forest. It is a treasure to walk this park, especially five mile drive that is closed to motorized traffic on Saturdays and Sundays. Majestic Douglas firs, western red cedars and western hemlocks thrive on this peninsular park which juts into Puget Sound.

Named during the Wilkes Expedition it's position along the Tacoma Narrows passageway would be ideal for a fort that would defy passage through the Sound at this narrow point.

When time allows I do the five mile drive and when it does not I walk only half the distance but challenge myself with the onerous hill. For all the times I've climbed the onerous hill, it has not gotten less onerous.

The park has a plethora of deer, many and varied shore birds, woodland birds and a number of eagles. Last week's walk included a river otter eating his day's catch along the shore -- the first time I'd ever seen one in the park.

My walks are far more than exercise to me. They provide me sanctuary from the daily hectic and restore my sense of the beauty this world has to offer.


E. B. Davis said...

I used to jog, but I switched to the gym over 20 years ago. I go three times a week, working the treadmill and elliptical, and then lift weights. If I had more time, on the off-days I'd swim, but my schedule doesn't permit it. Maybe when I retire! Exercise cures a lot of what ails me in mind, body and spirit. Need I say more?

Ann G said...

I love to walk. Over the years I've used a exercise bike and a treadmill, but both were pure slog. But going outdoors and walking in the natural world, or even (very occasionally) through town, is just a pleasure. I'm lucky enough to live on the south coast of England, and so right on the doorstep I have some very beautiful walks - along the seafront by the pebbly beaches, up on those gorgeous white cliffs, or inland on the rolling chalk hills of the South Downs. My husband Ryan and I work from home so getting out every day is something we both enjoy. It's also a time we get to talk to each other - although I confess we can sometimes be seen walking side by side and muttering to ourselves as he ponders a programming problem, and I think about what my characters should do next!

Gloria Alden said...

C, I love Fort Defiance Park. Not only the beauty of the natural area but the luscious rose gardens that is one of the finest I've ever seen. Unfortunately, gardens like that are my downfall since I try to replicate them without any full time gardeners. Hopefully within the next year I'll be able to visit it again. But this summer I'll be visiting wonderful gardens in Canada - something to look forward to, indeed.

Gloria Alden said...

Ann, I've seen some pictures of your area, and it is truly lovely. I look forward to the time I can visit England. I plan to make time to stop and visit you. I had to laugh as you walk side by side muttering to yourself, but that's what a good marriage is all about,time to share a walk and still have your own thoughts, and walking is an excellent way to solve problems, too.

Gloria Alden said...

I agree with you, E.B. Whatever exercise works best for you. My youngest daughter loved going to the gym in addition to her hiking and bicycling. Unfortunately for now, she has certain limitations that working out in a gym only exasperates. Actually, you get better body toning than what I do.

Warren Bull said...

I'm about to walk with my wife through our section of town to the neighborhood coffee place. I don't drink coffee but I like to walk and talk with judy. It's one way to build regular exercise into my life.

Linda Rodriguez said...

I love to walk, especially in wild or wooded areas. Kansas City is fortunate to have dozens of great parks and also lots of areas that are still wooded within the heart of the city. This is great for me since I can't use a lot of the machines in a gym.

I'm grouchy right now because I injured my right knee just before my book launch and have done my entire book tour, including Malice, without being able to walk much. I always like walking the area around the Malice hotel in Bethesda, but couldn't even leave the hotel to walk to restaurants for lunch. And the knee has only gotten worse during the rest of the book tour because I couldn't let it heal. Now, I'm home and sitting with it elevated, babying it, and hoping to get soon to the point that I can go for walks again.

Patg said...

I like walking, I walk my moorage once in a while, but I don't do anything regularly. I'm always trying stuff, just decided NOT on tai chi--too slow.
I never see what exercise does for me, until I don't do it anymore. I used to to aeroarobics, one and one-half hours of arobics with 25 minute cardio and with weights. Hated it, but I did it long enough for it to have impact my muscles and strength. Why I didn't think it did any good was I couldn't loose an ounce. Perspective. Something writers should know a lot about.

Gloria Alden said...

Every little bit counts, Warren, and it's nice you have someone you care about to walk with. That's an extra beneficial perk.

Gloria Alden said...

I understand, Linda. Two years ago I injured my left knee. I had a slight tear in my meniscus. Finally, almost a year later, I had arthoscoptic surgery, and again it took a while before I could do much, but I was able to walk with limitations before much longer. To this day, though, if I walk on hard pavements, both knees let me know they don't approve.

Gloria Alden said...

Pat, exercise doesn't alway cause the weight to come off because muscles weigh more than fat. Or so I've been told. I never liked the aerobic exercises, either. I hate to sweat. :-) I hate group exercising, too. I hated gym class in high school, but probably that was because my best friend and I were always the last to be picked for teams. We were both skinny kids, too, but not terribly coordinated.