Take little steps—just more of them—to get active
Three times a week, John Westlund drives from his home in Butte Creek Canyon to Chico State’s Acker Gym. He doesn’t go there to watch; he goes to participate, in the Cardio-Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program that Enloe Medical Center holds there.
Westlund, who is 75 (or, in his words, “three score and 15"), had open-heart surgery last year and spent 39 days in the hospital. To see him now, you’d hardly guess he underwent such an arduous procedure; you’d be duped by his vitality.
“When I’m not at rehab,” he said, “I’m active by walking. Every day I walk from my house to the covered bridge and back, about a mile; or even when I drive into town, I look for that faraway spot and walk the 200 or so yards into the store. I don’t mind parking two or three blocks away from a downtown business.
“My advice: Don’t always strive for what’s easiest.”
Many people do take the easy road, though, which is why the convenient spaces always seem full. That’s also why exercise tops new year’s resolution lists, and why fitness centers have paying customers who rarely head through the front door.
“You don’t have to join a gym,” said Morag Sutton, a nurse and administrator at the WindChime of Chico assisted living center. “What you have to do is get in the habit.”
Westlund has a routine, plus the motivation to walk on his own. But others, even those plopping down hard cash on gym memberships, hardly manage to make it out the door.
That’s where “the habit” comes in—plus someone to share your pain when setbacks occur.
“We all go through spurts of overdoing it, getting hurt, and then stopping altogether,” said Cathy Nagy, manager of Enloe’s Cardio-Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. “But having a friend as part of your exercise regime keeps you from doing too much, while having the added benefit of keeping you committed to staying active.”
Indeed, said Walt Schafer, professor emeritus of sociology at Chico State, “people who are connected with others lead healthier lives. The more isolated one is, the shorter his or her life will be.”
Schafer, author of Stress Management for Wellness, sees a direct connection between social and physical activity.
“The human animal has evolved to be active. Suddenly, through the development of technology, our species has become inactive. You simply have to make the effort, to make time and space in your life to move. The goal should be for a human to take about 10,000 steps a day. Studies show we do significantly less than that.”
Walking costs nothing more than a pair of shoes and some clothes on your back. You can find a good used bike at a garage sale or in a classified ad. Swimming at One-Mile during the summer is free.
There are numerous ways to exercise and keep the cost down as you do so. But finding the inner inspiration is the trick.
“Although some find it pretty hard to find the time or place to get active,” Nagy said, “in the long run, once they do, it’s difficult to stop.”