This post is from staff writer Jeffrey Steele.
At a recent neighborhood function, I ran into a woman I’ve known for years, but hadn’t seen in a few months. She’d be the first to admit to suffering a weight problem. A shorter woman, she’d packed on enough pounds over the years to audition for the role of a beach ball. But here she was far more svelte, and looking good.
“Edna! You look fantastic, ” I exulted. “What’d you do?”
“I’ve been walking, ” she replied. Then she smiled. I don’t know, but I hoped the grin was in part acknowledgement of my small role in her making that choice. As a long-time fitness walker, I sermonize to the point of annoyance on the endless upsides of a fitness walking regimen. And Edna knew I practiced what I preached. She’d routinely honked and waved at me from behind the wheel of her minivan when spotting me hoofing a mile or four down Central Avenue.
“So you’ve lost lots of weight, ” I said. “What other benefits have you felt? Do you find you have more energy?”
“How about sleep? You sleeping better than you did?”
“And you’re in a better mood?”
I came away from the conversation suspecting Edna had experienced something many big-time walkers do. Like us, she’d started to get addicted.
Over the years, there’s been much written on FiveCentNickel about ways to save money at the gym by embarking on a shoestring fitness routine. But nothing, I noticed while scanning the archives, has been focused solely on lacing up those shoestrings and embarking on a regular campaign of brisk walking.
That’s an oversight I’m addressing here, because it’s likely financial as well as health benefits will mount with every mile you log as a regular walker. Let’s take a look at how the world’s simplest form of exercise could help you save sizable bucks over time, while also possibly adding greenbacks to your pockets.
First, consider long-term health. Being sick isn’t just a drag, it gets costly over time, what with prescription drugs, hospital stays and whatnot.
Walking is proven to boost HDL or good cholesterol, while shrinking its evil twin, the bad cholesterol known as LDL. It lowers your blood pressure, reduces your risk of Type II diabetes, helps keep your bones strong and decreases stroke risk. You don’t have to study the rising costs of health care long to know that all the positives of walking could keep you from running. Running up medical bills, that is.
Get off your meds
According to Mother Nature Network, researchers examining National Walkers’ Health Study data on 32, 000 women and 8, 000 men found folks who took the longest weekly walks were more likely to use less medication. If you are on a course of meds, imagine the savings of giving up even a few of them, if not all. It would be like finding a large medicine jar of U.S. currency
A slimmer profile
As Edna learned, regular walking can do remarkable things for your physique. And that could mean a permanent end to shelling out good money on diet books, diet pills and diet fads. As reported by CNN.com, a Duke University Medical Center study found walking 30 minutes a day can prevent weight gain in most physically inactive adults. Sure, you’ll spend a bit more on yummy foods you no longer have to pass up, but the net result of giving up all those pricey diet gimmicks should be an improvement to your bottom line, as well as your bottom’s line.
Futurists predict there will be enormous costs in the years ahead associated with greater numbers of older people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The costs of long-term memory care can completely bankrupt families. But studies of older people suggest walking for as little as 45 minutes weekly wards off Alzheimer’s disease. No matter what your age, walking is a proven boon to your brain. Being more mentally sharp could also sharpen your pencil, helping you find ways to lower your budget and trim unnecessary household expenses.
All the above arguments have to do with saving money by engaging in regular walking. But I’ll go beyond these talking points, asserting that a walking regimen can provide revenue infusions that otherwise wouldn’t be offered.
As any fitness walker can tell you, walking is a mood enhancer. Like other exercises, it helps the body produce endorphins, which makes you happier. A regular walk will also help you sleep better, give you more energy and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. And while I haven’t seen any studies on this, I’m convinced it has a way of clearing your mind, helping you focus on problem solving and even idea generation. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the only time I ever won an award for contributing to this column, it was for a blog based on an idea that came to me while hiking 2-½ miles one chilly December morn a couple years ago.
If you’re a less cranky, better rested, more energetic, less stressed out and anxious person who’s a good problem solver and creative idea person, there’s no reason to think you won’t be a more marketable employee. Over the course of a career, that’s sure to mean more demand for you services, a higher income, and more promotions, resulting in, yes, an increasingly healthy total net worth.
If concerned about your long-term fiscal as well as physical health, give walking a try. Sure, you may start with small steps, but they could prove to be long strides toward a more comfortable financial future.