By Christen Cupples Cooper, MS, RD (www.coopernutrition.com)
Most Americans live in a “car culture,” driving from home to the supermarket and back, and repeating the same routine for work, the gym and even the neighbor’s house! In many towns, walking is not even an option due to safety reasons. No one should risk their lives, crossing four lanes of traffic sans crosswalk, in the name of exercise. Nutritionists salute the many people who are calling upon their local governments to bring back sidewalks, walking paths and bike lanes so that they can get “natural” exercise in the course of their days. Way to go!
Due to its extensive public transportation system, New York is one place where people have always walked and still walk—a lot. Having a car in the city is expensive, and frankly, sometimes a pain in the neck. In most cases, it’s far easier to jump on the subway, which avoids traffic, than to drive to a destination. New Yorkers often rent cars or take trains, busses or planes to get out of town.
Pictured here, you can see my friend Tsolig “Sunny” Shahinian, MS, RD (@SunnyDietitian on Twitter), who is a nutritionist who specializes in corporate wellness, and I, enjoying a glass of wine, a shrimp cocktail and a chicken quesadilla after we attended some meetings in the city yesterday. Sunny and I both walked from our meetings, which were 10-20 blocks away from the cafe, which is located near Grand Central Station. After our get-together, we walked to our commuter trains and traveled back to the suburbs in which we live. From the commuter trains, we walked to our cars (another ¼ mile) before finally arriving home.
Every bit of movement you get in a day counts. Walking not only helps keep you trim, but it helps build and preserve bone mass because it is considered a weight-bearing exercise. So take a step in the right direction and walk a little more each day.
- Don’t feel like you have to walk five miles on the first day you try walking. Walk for 15 at lunch time or have a “walking meeting” with a client or co-worker instead of sitting in an office.
- Buy an inexpensive pedometer and shoot for 5,000 steps for a few weeks. Then move it up to 10,000, which is five miles of walking!
- As cold weather creeps in, take a walk on non-rainy days to feel like you’ve “enjoyed the sun.” You’ll get some Vitamin D and a mood boost.
- Take walks with “a purpose” if you’re going with kids, who often complain about walking. Call them “nature walks,” “rock gathering walks.” Do whatever it takes to get outside and walking.
- The age-old tip that still works: take the stairs, not the elevator.
- Meet a friend at a walkable destination, someplace halfway between you.
- When you crave that once-a-week treat that’s at a bakery a mile away, make yourself walk there if you really want it!