Still Walking, 21 Years Later

By Bruce Frassinelli
Email: bruce@cny55.com

One step‘This walking program and calorie control has made a life-changing difference. Not only has it helped take my weight from a totally unacceptable 257 to a now reasonable 185, but it has enhanced all of the important health numbers.’

“I’ve flown around the world in a plane…” That’s a line from the great, 1937 Bunny Berrigan classic “I Can’t Get Started with You.”

Well, I have walked around the world (and then some) on foot. Not all at once, of course. In May, I passed the 41,000-mile mark.

That’s about 1 ½ times around the earth at the equator since 1999 when I undertook my vigorous walking and weight-loss program of calorie control.

I started with a few miles a day, then worked up to 10 miles daily for a number of years, but when I turned 75, it became far more difficult to sustain such a regimen, and now, six years later, I do between three and four miles six days a week, or the equivalent of walking from Oswego to the Great Northern Mall.

This walking program and calorie control has made a life-changing difference. Not only has it helped take my weight from a totally unacceptable 257 to a now reasonable 185, but it has enhanced all of the important health numbers, including blood pressure (125 over 65), pulse rate (38 at rest), cholesterol (total cholesterol 160 and LDL-C 63), and glucose (73). Not bad for an 81-year-old. I have not had a headache in 20 years, and instead of two or three colds annually, I have had just three during that time.

My daily walking routine is consistent: I try to start by daybreak. Prior to hitting the road, I do about 10 minutes of knee bends, stretching and other exercises. I do a route that takes me up some fairly steep hills (no pain, no gain). I take a liter of water with me and make water breaks every so often.

This sets an indescribable tone for my day. I feel great, pumped up, ready to face the challenges of the world.

The entire process, from warm-up exercises until I step foot into the garage and do my cool-down exercises at the end of the walk, takes a little over an hour and a half. When I was doing 10 miles a day, it would take me more than three hours. Obviously, working a full-time job makes such a time commitment difficult to impossible. Being retired gives me the time to do justice to this regimen.

Here are my tips for getting involved in a walking regimen:

  • Warm up before starting to walk; otherwise, you run the risk of hurting yourself.
  • Start modestly, maybe a mile or so a day until you get into shape; then, if motivated, you can increase the distance proportionately. Take a day or two off a week at the start.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated — you will sweat.
  • Listen to your body; if you feel pain, don’t ignore it.
  • Reduce your caloric intake so that all of your hard work is not offset by binge eating.
  • If available, walk with a buddy; if not, download podcasts and music. I listen to National Public Radio programming and Sirius XM’s ‘50s on 5 (oldies from my era).
  • Walk on the left side of the road facing traffic; be sure to share the road and wave a thank you to vehicles which give you wide berth.

The payback?

MedicineNet.com provides this information about the benefits of walking:

– Walking 150 minutes per week and losing just 7% of your body weight (12-15 pounds) can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58%.

– Walking strengthens your heart if you’re male. In one study, mortality rates among retired men who walked less than one mile per day were nearly twice that of those who walked more than two miles per day.

– Walking strengthens your heart if you’re female. In the Nurses’ Health Study (72,488 female nurses), those who walked three hours or more per week reduced their risk of a heart attack or other coronary events by 35% compared with women who did not walk.

– Walking is good for your brain. Researchers found that those who walked the equivalent of 1.5 hours per week had significantly better cognitive function and less cognitive decline than those who walked less than 40 minutes per week.

– Walking is good for your bones. Postmenopausal women who walk approximately one mile each day have higher whole-body bone density than women who walk shorter distances, and walking is also effective in slowing the rate of bone loss from the legs.

– Walking for 30 minutes, three to five times per week for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of depression by 47%.

– Women who performed the equivalent of one hour and 15 minutes to 2 1/2 hours per week of brisk walking had an 18% decreased risk of breast cancer compared with inactive women. Many studies have shown that exercise can prevent colon cancer, and even if a person develops colon cancer, the benefits of exercise appear to continue both by increasing quality of life and reducing mortality.

– Walking just three times a week for 30 minutes can significantly increase cardiorespiratory fitness.

– Research shows that walking prevents physical disability in older persons.

The list goes on.

As the old Alka-Seltzer TV commercial proclaimed, “Try it; you’ll like it.”

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