In early October 2012 I made my annual trek to Hawaii for the Ironman Sports Medicine Conference I organize each year in Kona. This is always my favorite week of the year because my days are dedicated to learning more about medicine and to being active. This year’s meeting was outstanding, with a host of great speakers and attendees from around the world. The theme of the meeting is always sports and exercise medicine with an emphasis on endurance athletes. The week is culminated for me by volunteering in the medical tent at the Ironman Triathon World Championships. This event is really the Super Bowl for triathlon and features some of the greatest athletes from around the world competing in a 2.4 mile swim, a 114 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile marathon run all in the same day!
Watching these great athletes compete in such a grueling event is truly inspiring, but it is important to point out you don’t need to be an Ironman to gain most of the important health benefits you want from regular exercise. Research has shown that doing just 150 minutes per week of walking can provide tremendous benefits to your health and longevity. While doing more does provide some added benefit, the positive effects start to taper off and probably doing more than 100 minutes of exercise in a day does not add that much benefit. On the other hand, doing just a little exercise packs a lot of benefit in a short amount of time. One study showed that walking just 15 minutes a day added almost 3 years to one’s lifespan when compared to someone who did not walk at all.
While walking is a great exercise that is accessible to most of us, there are many other great ways you can gain the health benefits of physical activity. While I was in Kona, in addition to walking and jogging, I took the opportunity to go for a long swim each day in the beautiful Pacific Ocean waters. With a perfect temp of about 80 degrees and crystal clear waters teeming with exotic fish, there is nothing more enjoyable than an ocean swim in Hawaii. Swimming is a great exercise for those who may have lower extremity joint problems that are aggravated by weight bearing exercises like walking. And certainly doing 150 minutes per week of swimming provides the same health benefit as in doing a similar amount of walking.
So I hope you are able to find the activity that suits you best. If we can’t get Every Body to Walk, we are happy to get you to swim or bike or whatever!
Just keep moving!