Let’s Go for a Walk

OCH neurologist Dr. Sharlin recently published the following article “Let’s Go for a Walk,” in a local publication known as Greene Magazine (August 2013). For more information about Greene Magazine, visit: http://greenemagazine.com/.

Recently, I found myself sitting and thinking about…well, sitting and thinking.  It had been a typical day: up at 6:30 am, shower, dress, breakfast, off to work where I spend a good deal of my day at my desk sitting–typing on the computer, talking on the phone, and attending the occasional administrative meeting.  I am an active person, so while I try to squeeze in some running or bicycling or a visit to the gym in the evenings, frankly, I am pretty tired.  I push through, I do.  But by the time it’s 8:30 pm I am in my PJ’s and on the sofa with my iPad or enjoying a favorite television program.  Why am I sharing these details with you?  Recently, I viewed a TED talk presented by Nilofer Merchant that was filmed this past February.  If you have not discovered the TED talks (TED means Technology, Entertainment, and Design) they are a huge treat for the brain.  Dubbed “riveting talks by remarkable people free to the world” this talk by Nilofer Merchant was no exception.  Nilofer Merchant is sort of a modern day Stephen Covey (of “7 Habits” fame), an expert on the dynamics of group collaboration, within the high tech field.  Ms. Merchant’s subject for the TED talk “Got a meeting?  Take a walk,” put me on my feet.  Here are some statistics:

A study of walking habits of Americans in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that Americans walked significantly less (about 5,000 steps per day) compared to counterparts in Japan, Australia, and Switzerland where the average was nearly twice as many steps.  In 2008 the American Journal of Epidemiology published a study of sedentary behaviors among Americans.  The paper reported, overall, participants spent 54.9% of their monitored time, or 7.7 hours/day, in sedentary behaviors. The most sedentary groups in the United States were older adolescents and adults aged ≥60 years, and they spent about 60% of their waking time in sedentary pursuits.  It turns out that most of us spend more time sitting (generally a negative thing) than sleeping (generally a positive thing), and very little time moving (well, you know).  Sedentary behavior is associated with all sorts of health risks, including heart attack, stroke, certain cancers, and loss of range of motion, mobility, and balance among older adults that may, in turn, raise the risk of critical falls.  To repeat an oft quoted expression: “Sitting is the new smoking.”

So, here we are in Greene County, Missouri, a beautiful place to enjoy all the benefits of movement.  A visit to the Ozark Greenways website (www.ozarkgreenways.org) details 75 miles of trails in our area.  This does not include sidewalks, parks, and the Springfield Nature Center.  Encourage friends, family, and co-workers to walk, jog, run, or ride a bike.  Just move.  Spend more time standing at work.  Create a standing workstation, if possible.  Make meetings a walk in the park, literally.  When driving choose parking spaces that maximize walk distance across the parking lot and take stairs rather than elevators and escalators.  Enjoy healthful, nutritious meals, but then go for a walk.  A June 12, 2013, study published in Diabetes Care, involved people aged 60 or older who were at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes because of higher-than-normal levels of fasting blood sugar and their low levels of exercise.  The researchers found that short after-meal walks produced a significant decrease in the blood sugar levels of their test subjects.  As for me, I’ve had enough sitting and thinking; I think I’ll go walking and talking.  Hope to see you on the trails!

sharlinDr. Sharlin practices general neurology at Ozarks Community Hospital locations in Springfield and Nixa.  When he is not working Dr. Sharlin enjoys swimming, biking and running, and has completed two Ironman triathlons.  He is a graduate of Kenyon College where he earned his BA in English and studied the work of physician-writers, including the late Dr. John Stone, his mentor.  Subsequently, Dr. Sharlin earned his medical degree from Emory University and currently resides with his wife Valerie, also a triathlete, here in Greene County (Springfield), Missouri.

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