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Walkabout

04 April 2021

Spring has sprung and for all of us who have been cooped up inside our homes, it’s time to get out and start moving. While we have heard for decades how important cardiovascular exercise is for our health, less touted are the benefits of just moving about or taking short walks. No special equipment is needed, except perhaps for a comfortable pair of shoes, and just about anyone can participate. Just to be clear, I am not saying you should replace your cardio or resistance training with walking, but you can reap great benefits from just being active at low intensities.   

Quoting from Bluezones.com, a website dedicated to health and longevity, “The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons, or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work. They have jobs that require them to move or get up frequently. And they walk every single day. Almost everywhere”. In fact, studies have shown that being active or moving throughout the day is better for you than one bout of exercise lasting 30-40 minutes followed by large spans of inactivity. 

So even if you can’t get to the gym, just walking a few hours a week can have tremendously benefit your health. Some of these benefits include losing weight, lowering blood pressure, improving memory, and even reducing your risk for cancer.  One study found that walking just 2.5 hours a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 30%.  That is a great return on your exercise investment for walking just 21 minutes a day.

Your immune system also gets a boost.  A study of 1000 men and women found that those who walked just 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week had 43% less sick days than their counterparts who exercised just once a week. In the times of a pandemic, boosting your immune system may actually be a life or death situation. And if you are concerned about the pandemic, getting outside may reduce your risk because due to the natural flow of air being able to disperse airborne particles of the virus. Perhaps even more important, a study from the Journal of Infectious Disease found that 90% of Covid particles become deactivated due to UV light from the sun within just ten minutes.

Getting outdoors to walk or exercise may offer even greater benefits when compared to exercising indoors. With the explosion of social media coupled with inexpensive electronics, we can’t seem to get away from the bombardment of media. Even when walking on a treadmill at a gym, we see people glued to their phones or staring at rows of televisions. Many treadmills have screens actually built in, making it almost impossible to escape. Lately there have been many studies examining the effects of “screen time” vs “green time”. Too much screen time has been associated with less favorable psychological outcomes such as increased anxiety and depression. This seems to be even more pernicious among the younger generation. The CDC reports that children aged 11-14 spends an average of 9 hours a day in front of a screen. Green time however has been associated with more favorable psychological outcomes such as reduced stress and better cognitive function.  

The research is clear and the weather is here. It’s time to get outside and start moving. In fact, that is what I am going to do right now. Enjoy the day. 

bio photo

Lieutenant Michael "Sporty" Kilbane

Michael Kilbane is a retired officer from the Cleveland Fire Department having served for over 35 years.

In that time, he has spearheaded many efforts to advance the betterment of the division through wellness initiatives and grants. He has also authored a pamphlet on maintaining back strength and health for firefighters.  Mr. Kilbane’s education includes an undergraduate degree in both Philosophy and Natural Health, along with master’s level coursework in both Physiology and Philosophy.  He is also a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is recognized through that organization as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. As a trained massotherapist, Mr. Kilbane has also witnessed literally first hand the damage done to first responders by over straining in some of the most hostile work environments. His most recent focus is utilizing kettle bells for functional training and is the author of The Athletes Ultimate Guide to Kettlebell Training.

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