The joys of short walks

There are lots of reasons I don’t exercise as much as I should, and you probably have lots of them, yourself, too. Whether it’s an off day or an off week, I usually can make up some sort of reason why I won’t exercise, and too often, it somehow outweighs all the reasons why I should!

One thing, though, that is very hard to talk myself out of rationally is the short walk. The short walk is something I have embraced in the last while (thanks, Pokemon Go!), and something I hope to keep up with—in the sub-zero even hopefully, maybe with the exception of snow that passes my mid-calf when I can avoid it. The short walk got even easier this weekend, thanks to puppy-sitting my buddy Guide Dog Murray—it’s hard to resist taking a quick swing around the block with a cute dog who keeps pace directly at your side like he is trained to do! (Yup, just imagine a 75-poind black lab staying at your side with slack on the leash—it’s as relaxing as it sounds not dealing with a big dog tugging you around!)

There are a few great things about the short walk—which I see as anything under about 15 minutes. When you have asthma, this time-frame (unless you go really fast right away!) is short enough that you may not have exercise induced asthma symptoms during a short walk. Most often, exercise induced asthma becomes symptomatic after about 10 minutes of activity. A short timeframe, like 10 or 15 minutes, really means that you can hardly justify not having time to go. If you have time to check your emails, texts, social media, or turn on the TV in a day, you probably have time to squeeze a ten or fifteen minute walk in, too. For me, I work primarily from home, so I like getting out in the morning and doing a short walk—whether that is 10 minutes around my neighborhood, or two 10 to 12 minute walks to the store —and back, for 30-40 minutes including shopping time. It helps energize me for the day and start my day with something productive while my brain is still half asleep. I’ve also taken my morning inhalers by this point, which mean as long as I take them with an ample buffer before going out, I’m covered for a walk by a fresh does of meds, without having to pre-medicate (I still pre-medicate if I am going for a longer or faster walk).

In 2013, I was in my second last year of university, and the groundbreaking news came out that ten minute bouts of exercise produced significant health benefits over not exercising—however, the same fitness benefits were not gained as exercising for longer periods of time. This information came up in every class for awhile, because it was there—with studies to back it—but reforming what we thought we knew about exercise: a 20 minute workout at high intensity three times a week might be the minimum but “gold standard” for fitness, but where it came to health benefits, people who had never exercised a day in their lives could absolutely get healthier starting with just ten minutes of exercise a day—or even working their way up to ten minutes depending on their physical health. In dealing with developed countries that get less and less exercise as they age and as the years pass, this was good news for my classes of young hopefuls trying to change the world (or at least get ourselves and a few more people off our butts!).

The health benefits of short bursts of activity are numerous—and more people are able to achieve the 150 recommended minutes of physical activity when they do it in ten minute bursts, per the 2013 release.1 More than 43% of people (of 6000 in the study!) were able to meet the recommended federal physical activity guidelines if they made it a lifestyle choice—ten minutes here, ten minutes there—compared to just 10% of people who exercise for longer periods of time.1 In fact, the article states that climbing up and down stairs (which, I know, sucks with asthma sometimes) for just 10 to 15 minutes, might rival the workout that someone who visits a gym would get!1 By integrating these bouts of activity into your lifestyle, you have a better chance of making it a habit, and sticking with it, which helps improve your health in the long-term. Risk of elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis/fracture risk, and more are lowered with regular exercise2—these are the health benefits you can get with just 10 or 15 minute bouts of exercise a day.

So, if it is easier on your lungs (or your schedule), doing short walking bursts are a good place to start—but, don’t stop there! And if you’re already working out regularly, keep up your routine!

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