It is the rare human being who can clock 9.63 seconds over 100 metres as Usain Bolt did winning gold at the London Olympics. But that doesn’t mean we cannot make an effort to clock the 80 seconds it would take the rest of us to walk that distance.
Put a few 100 metres together over half an hour regularly and gratifying results accrue. For downtowners, the scenic walk from the old Black business district at Bathurst and Bloor over to the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum at Avenue Road and Bloor will take less than half an hour, and it’s a pleasant street view. But a walk around your neighbourhood can be just as good. If it’s too cold, there is always an indoor walk around the nearest mega mall.
The simplest form of exercise for those who can is walking. Walking just 30 minutes a day four or five times a week can extend your life, lower your blood pressure, help to manage weight and has the added benefit of improved mental health.
Fitness and diet businesses try to capitalize on people making New Year’s resolutions to get healthy, but getting regular exercise is a resolution which, if kept, will result in multiple benefits. And it doesn’t have to cost any money. In fact, improving your health will actually save you money.
But what would it take to get any of us who resist physical fitness activities to get on board? Maintaining physical stamina and hardiness is rewarding, rather than a duty or obligation. The simple fact of increasing physical activity level beginning now will make the difference in whether or not some people live to see Christmas 2013.
Increasing cardiovascular activity is especially important for our community since people of African descent are at particular risk for hypertension, stroke and heart disease, which result in death at a higher rate than from cancer, and which are preventable. The other epidemic in the Black community that is preventable to some extent is diabetes, and therefore could be avoided through a healthy diet and regular fitness activity.
As mentioned regularly during the past year by Share columnist Dr. Christopher J. Morgan, who is president of the Black Health Alliance, these disease epidemics have to be of concern to our community because of their high rate of occurrence among us. For example, Black people in the 40 – 50 age group are at the highest risk for hypertension compared to all other ethnicities.
Of course, there are other issues that contribute to the level of care and treatment of these heart health issues, such as life circumstances, since people in lower socio-economic circumstances are more prone to diabetes and heart disease. We also know that access to health care and the quality of care we receive is an issue. There are studies which confirm that Black people receive a lower level of care in many cases compared to non-Blacks and that is something we also have to work to change.
Nonetheless, those actions that are within an individual’s immediate control are what this simple New Year’s resolution can begin to address.
Physical activity is a major influencing factor along with a diet that leans toward fresh fruit and vegetables and away from processed foods, which tend to be high in salt, sugar and chemicals.
The simple commitment to walking even 30 minutes regularly has personal impact but it also has broader aspects. Annual treatment costs in Ontario for diabetes, a lifestyle related health condition, is $2 billion; $5 billion when the treatment for heart disease and stroke are factored in. Out of pocket, people living with diabetes will spend close to $1000 annually. However, walking for health involves no financial cost, except for a good pair of walking shoes.
Walking is not the only physical exercise, of course, but it is most accessible for just about everyone, so it is a good place to start. But, any form of endurance activity will be of benefit, for example, running.
We have so many Caribbean and African Canadian athletes in the Olympics reaping the glory of speed – the Olympic motto is “Faster, higher, stronger” – but we can look to East African distance runners for inspiration when it comes to lifestyle fitness. Speed will win at the Olympics but in the race for life, endurance is the way to go.
So, in 2013, let’s get moving.