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Changing a Lifestyle...

10,000 steps at a time.

by Michael H. Thomson
August 17, 2005

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Changing a Lifestyle...
In June, I turned sixty. Birth milestones have always been meaningful to me. 16, 18, and 21 were positive for various reasons. Thirty was a shocker – I had not paid attention and it slipped up on me, likewise forty, fifty, and now, sixty.
The first week of my sixtieth year, I scheduled a vision examination and a doctor's appointment. The vision exam was bad news and the doctor's visit was no better.  High blood pressure, high glucose, high cholesterol and a body seriously overweight, had been brought about by a lifestyle that was predominantly sedentary and devoted to the consumption of rich foods. My blood pressure was in stroke range and new medications were not helping bring it down. When my young doctor – frustrated by the situation – put his head in his hands, I knew I was in trouble. My telepathic powers were highly tuned that day and I could plainly hear his thoughts, this guy is going to die if he doesn't turn things around!
A friend in Cincinnati had faced some similar problems about two years earlier and began what is popularly known as a 10,000-step program i.e. doing 10,000 walking steps a day. She bought a pedometer – a device that measures steps - and has faithfully pursued the program. Her results have been phenomenal. Weight loss and improved quality of health have dramatically changed her quality of life for the better.
I haven't bought a pedometer yet, but I have started the program and have been in it for about four weeks. Researching on the web I found out  10,000 steps is about five miles of walking a day. My first day of walking was less than two miles.  I was depressed because my body had memories of being able to run 7 miles a day. On top of it all, I was stressing because my blood pressure was still dangerously high. I persisted – this is what you have to do if you get into a program like this. 

Each day I added more steps and increased the speed of my walking. I have been at this for several weeks and I now walk eight miles a day or approximately 16,000 steps. What do I have to show for it? For starters my medication now controls my blood pressure (also cutting back on my sodium intake has helped) and my glucose readings are in an acceptable range. My belly fat is gradually melting and I am one trouser size smaller. This is all in the first month.
Here's the hard part: In my case, I know there is no second chance. I can't return to the lifestyle I've always defaulted towards i.e. breakfasts high in cholesterol such as country ham and biscuits, rich gravies, and jellies. Prime rib dinners and potatoes sopping with butter and sour cream are no longer for me.  Nutritional value labels on food products have become more meaningful. Does this product have too much sodium, carbohydrates, or fat? Questions I'm asking every day and the answers have contributed to an overall awareness of what I've been putting into my body - junk!
The good part is that my body is starting to enjoy the way I'm now treating it and I sleep better, enjoy my meals more, and have a general sense of well being that I haven't had in years.
10,000 steps may not be the answer for everyone; in fact, people with certain physical limitations may not be able to do it at all. However, if you are able - this is a great prescription for a healthier life with a very low investment – a good pair of athletic shoes and in most cases – a pedometer. For more information, about 10,000 step programs go to www.shapeup.org.

Comments (4)

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Bick Berney from Knoxville Tennessee writes:
August 17, 2005
Michael.....it is all in the genes. I am 64....will be 65 in March. I do exercise a bit but nothing like 7 miles a day. I eat...at least once ever two weeks country ham with eggs, hash browns and red eyed gravy. I eat steak two to three times a week with a baked tater, with sour cream and butter w/salt and pepper. Like you I just completed my annual physical. My blood pressure was 120 over 78. The clestrol was a tad over 200 and my doctor gave me a prescription for that...now it is down to 185. I smoke, drink Jack Daniels and feel fine. Of course tomorrow morning I could wake up dead. I figure I have worked hard all my life and now that I am reaching my golden years I plan on enjoying it. To cut out all the things I like make me ill just to think about it. My parents and grandparents lived to be in their 80s.


mike thomson from Paeonian Springs, VA writes:
August 18, 2005
Ah... that's the point, Bick. I know you more well than you think. You are definitely not sedentary - which I am as well as several others I know. I would wager with you that if you were to hook a pedometer to your waist for a week that you would average about 8000 steps or 4 miles a day. The 10,000 step program is for people whose lifestyles don't normally bring them to that level. Thanks for writing!

Melody from Cincinnati writes:
August 22, 2005
I'm happy for you Mike (and Liz too - I'd think she'd like to hang on to you as long a possible!). Changing the diet is the hardest part. Occassional backsliding kind of comes with being human. However, you've made the biggest change already... the mind.

I still love my pedometer.

Ainsley Jo Phillips from Anderson, Indiana USA writes:
September 5, 2005
Congratulations on reaching the big six-oh in such a neat year to do so!

You share the birth year with two of my cousins, Henry Winkler, and (unfortunately) a psychiatrist who would have loved nothing better than to have snatched me up in a butterfly net and lobotomized me with pills back in 1973 (long story).

If I remember right, you also share the birth year with Roger Kiser who wrote about his life in an orphanage in the book called Orphan. If he weren't born in 1945, he came within a year of it, give or take. Really nice person--someone you should look up sometime and write about!


AJ :o)

P.S. You aren't alone in fighting The Battle Of The Bulge! Good luck! You seem to be off to a great start!

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