Want to Improve Your Quality of Life Ten Years from Now? Take a Walk Today.

Some weeks when I write this post I have my theme in mind, or there was something that happened in my life, or something that I’ve heard or read, that stands out as worth sharing with others.

Other times, I don’t start with that kind of clarity, and I have to dig a little to find something I find worth writing and I think my readers (actual, theoretical, and potential) will find worth reading. This was one of those weeks.

So I went back to basics. The first three theme words of this blog – read, think, walk – usually provide the content for what I write. So I did a quick inventory of these areas of my life, and found what I needed mentally filed under “walk.”

It started with, not a concept, but a person. “D.” is a dapper looking elderly gentleman I often pass on the opposite side of my favorite walking street. Usually we smile and wave. Sometimes we cross over and chat a little. Only recently did I learn his name, and some of his story.

To me, one of the most interesting parts of that story was actually a number. He is 97 years old! I would have guessed at least a decade less.

Here are some things about D. that I find notable in addition to his age, and that in my mind contribute to his achievement of that age, and his looking and moving so well.

  • He walks. Every day. He goes at a moderate, steady pace, but for some distance, and every day.

  • He always has a smile on his face.

  • He talks with the people he meets along the way and not only proves to be an interesting conversationalist, but finds them interesting as well.

I’ve worked with and observed quite a few people in their 80’s, 90’s, and beyond, and in my opinion, in addition to whatever genetic and environmental components are involved, most people who hang around longer, and in relatively good physical and mental health, share these traits: they move their bodies regularly to the best of their ability, even if they have to overcome some pain or fatigue to do it; they keep a positive attitude, and sense of humor; and they maintain an interest in life and in other people.

I’ll focus here on the walking part, but they all tend to go together. I’m sure there’s plenty of scientific research to back up this idea, but for the purpose of this post I’m content with personal experience and ‘anecdotal’ evidence.

Most of the people I’ve known who lived long lives and were healthy and happy in their later years stayed active as long as they possibly could. Those who declined sooner and more dramatically did not. An oversimplification, but it makes enough sense to justify doing something that is enjoyable and beneficial now anyway.

We know walking can have physical, social, and emotional benefits now, and it’s enjoyable to do. If it happens to help us do better years, even decades, down the road as well, that’s a worthwhile bonus.

One of my favorite quotes, which can be applied to nearly every aspect of life, is : “A year from now you may wish you had started today,” attributed to author Karen Lamb.

That could apply to the book or song you’ve been meaning to write; the business you dream of starting, or expanding; a health or fitness goal you want to work towards; improving your relationships; or just about anything else.

Most large goals and worthy endeavors take time. They require gradual, progressive steps (sorry about the pun) to see improvement. You need to start somewhere, then just keep going.

So whatever it is, start today, and you’ll see a little improvement next week, next month, and especially next year. And in the case of staying active by taking a brisk walk every day, you’ll enjoy each “step” along the way.

Just a few of my bonuses from walking every day: My pants are looser now. I’ve made new friends, human and canine. And I always have something to write about.