Taking Personal Responsibility for our Health in 2011
As we start a new year, many of us are thinking of our health, weight, vitality, and longevity. Plans are being made to join expensive gyms and embark on complex exercise regimes that will probably fall by the wayside. We look to consult with gurus, psychologists, life coaches and nutritionists to help us begin a healthier new year. We even have our eyes set on some new piece of exercise equipment that we hope will make us look like the guy or girl on late night TV who is using it. The more expensive and complex the equipment or plan, the more we are attracted to it.
We are a nation of “quick fixers.” We abdicate our personal responsibility for our health as we search for a pill, a shot, a potion or a new gimmick that we hope will be that “quick fix”. Even though I am a physician, a scientist and a skeptic, I still find myself buying into some of the health marketing we are all bombarded with. However, accepting responsibility for our own well-being is the first critical step to a healthier life. Quite simply, a daily walking regime is an important first step to a healthier you.
Another aspect of health that we are faced with at this time is our nation’s health care issues. A new Congress is moving in on Washington and we read of a failing Medicare system, an overburdened healthcare system stretched to its financial and physical limits; the uninsured and the over-paid. I hear the questions asked about how our government will solve all of these problems; about how the insurance giants and workers’ compensation programs will help fix all of these issues. In other words, the responsibility of solving our healthcare problems usually centers around “what can THEY do to solve our health care issues”. Here again we tend to abdicate our responsibility for our health system to others. The fundamental problem is cost and not enough money to fix everyone’s health problems. There is a misperception that it is the government’s job to keep us healthy.
The harsh reality is that there just isn’t enough money in any national budget to keep a nation healthy. Therefore, taking personal responsibility for our own health is the first and most important step in changing and solving many of the health care issues we face as a nation. Taking greater responsibility for your own health will have a massively positive effect on a national crisis. We only need to look at some of the environmental issues we face as a global community to understand the answers. The Green Movement has been a grass roots effort led by the efforts of all of us who recycle and make smart choices in our daily lives – from the cars we drive to the products we buy.
The Effects of Obesity on our National Health Budget
Around 80% of our national healthcare budget goes into treating obesity, coronary artery disease, diabetes, congestive heart failure, asthma, depression, spine problems, back pain, and strokes. Diabetes type 2 or adult onset diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in America and is as a result of a blend of genetics, bad diet and obesity. Some call it a lifestyle disease. If one were to cut the number of Medicare patients from getting this disease in half, we would save the Medicare system (alone) billions of dollars. Here’s how you make that cut: By walking for one hour a day. In fact, virtually all the medical problems I’ve listed above can be greatly reduced by a simple, daily walking program. Even if we were to cut only one to two percent of people with those health issues, we would save approximately a 100 billion healthcare dollars annually. Studies in the workforce have shown that unhealthy habits account for 60% to 70% of the health care costs. Programs that encourage the elimination of smoking as well as weight reduction with light exercise – have saved companies millions in health care costs. Walking is always a key component of this type of program and cost-saving goal.
Spine care alone in this country has an estimated $90 billion to $100 billion price tag. As a spine specialist seeing thousands of patients over the last 20 years, I would estimate that more than 50% of the visits to my office could be eliminated by a simple, daily one-hour walking regime. Dr. Scott Blatt, a prominent Westlake chiropractor says “Walking and hiking plays an important role in many of our rehab programs”.
Accepting personal responsibility for our own health is the key to health, wellness and vitality. We have the power to take care of our health (and positively affect health care nationally) through a simple daily walking regime – Wellness Walking. Why walking? It’s one of the best comprehensive exercise activities. It works all of the major muscle groups, affects the heart and circulation, the lungs, the core muscles that support the spine, the bones and it helps to prevent osteoporosis. It burns calories, thereby reducing excess weight and the chances of developing Diabetes type II. It has also been shown to affect our mood and mental health because of the neuro-transmitters in the brain which release serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. Walking outdoors in the sunlight is also beneficial because it helps us to produce Vitamin D. Walking has also been shown to decrease blood pressure and to reduce the incidence of strokes.
Our bodies were created to walk. It is low impact – thus preserving the back, the hips and knees. One of the most common reasons for someone to fall off the exercise wagon is injury. There is little chance of injury while walking. Most importantly, there is seldom any excuse NOT to walk. You can do it slowly or fast – just so long as you walk!
- It takes a loss of approximately 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound. Walking moderately for 45 minutes for the average-sized individual burns around 200 calories.
- One can add hand movements and try Speed Walking to burn calories at a higher rate. Most of us with relatively sedentary lifestyles walk approx 2500 steps a day. In order to lose weight it is recommended that we walk 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day. An inexpensive pedometer can help keep track of this.
- For those of us who like gadgets, a pulse meter is also helpful to keep our heart rate in our target zone to optimize our walking experience (as well as keep track of the actual number of calories burned).
As we set out to follow our New Year health resolutions we should realize that the simplest solution is sometimes the best. Solving our national healthcare issues starts with each of us. Our health, lives and longevity can be changed with a simple, uncomplicated, daily walking regime. For more information and help go to: medicalwellnesswalking.com