In a recent edition of the Globe and Mail, 35-year-old Ottawa resident Michael Read admitted he’d lost 90 pounds just by increasing his daily walk to the bus stop.
“The introduction of a new bus pass in Ottawa meant my bus became overcrowded before it arrived at my usual stop,” Read told the Globe in a Jan. 9 article. “So it would often skip my stop because it was too full. Suddenly, walking was quicker than waiting for a bus to stop.”
Within three months, Read says he was two sizes smaller, his suits falling to his ankles.
Although I haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions this year, I was inspired by Read’s story. Forget boot camps and running races, walking daily is one of the easiest ways to get and keep fit. Yet, between sitting at our desks, sitting in our cars or on public transit and sitting watching television, many of us still can’t seem to find the time for a simple walk each day.
I’ll admit, even I have fallen prey to my sedentary work once again. With multiple January deadlines looming, I have found myself frequently sitting at my desk from 5 a.m., staring at the computer screen, reading things online, sipping my cup of joe, typing up articles, editing text. The next thing I know, it’s mid-morning. Sometimes I think about walking at this time, but then I realize I have nowhere to go, or it’s time to feed the baby, or I should be making that evening’s dinner instead. There always seem to be a million excuses to stay still and then return to my desk – and stay still some more.
But as I’ve written in these pages before, hypertension is a killer. Many authors in 2012 cited long days of sitting as the number one contributor to everything from heart disease to cancer, worse than smoking a pack of cigarettes per day. Despite the sitting epidemic in North American work culture, the solution is often simpler than we realize.
Last winter, a video called 23 1/2 hours went viral. The 10-minute long, animated lecture presented a number of studies that proved thirty minutes of exercise each day can improve stress levels, heart health and overall fitness. The film’s message went something like this -- there are 24 hours in a day – even if you spend 24 sitting on your bum, couldn’t you find at least 30 minutes to exercise?
A study conducted last year by the University of Copenhagen found that 30 minutes of cardio per day is as effective as a one-hour workout in reducing obesity and improving overall health. In fact, the study subjects that worked out for half an hour per day lost more weight on average over a three-month period than those who did a full 60-minute workout.
I haven’t made New Year’s resolutions because I generally find New Year’s resolutions tough to maintain. And I’m never quite sure it’s a good idea to resolve to change at the same time as everyone else, especially when there is so much evidence to suggest most of us fall off the wagon sometime around mid-February.
But as I sit and type this – it’s 5:30 a.m. – I’m suddenly thinking about the pressure around my ankles. I’m thinking about the conversation I had with two editors yesterday, who are decades older than me and can barely walk some days due to back problems. I’m barely into my mid-thirties. If I continue this way, I likely won’t make it another five years. It’s not about weight loss for me,(although who wouldn’t love to shed an extra 10 pounds six months after having a baby)? But if Mike Read can shed 90 pounds just by walking a little longer to the bus stop each day and if all those study subjects in Denmark can improve their health with just 30 minutes of cardio per day, it’s time I resolve to get myself moving. After all, it really only takes a good pair of good shoes. And a will to live.