Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
The Season for Walking

The Season for Walking

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."
—  L.M. Montgomery wrote in Anne of Green Gables
We are not there yet— but we are close and anticipation is a lot of fun—  I’m talking about my favorite month, namely October. I don’t know when you will actually see this article—but October is not far away.
The pandemic continues to complicate our lives and work a hardship (or worse) on many.  We are trying to get back to normal. For example, most students are back in school. We see a number on campus here at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. We are enjoying football (especially our beloved Red Raiders and favorite high school team.) Of course, we must be careful and wear our masks indoors and so forth. Furthermore, we are very aware of and thinking about our dedicated team members— those who are on the frontline, attending to COVID patients. Bless each one of them.
Down the road we know that November and December will bring big holidays but also a measure of stress. That leaves us with October. Wonderful October.
October is pretty much perfect—excellent weather, Halloween decor, multi-colored leaves, and more meaningful football games as the season progresses.  Will we get to go to a bowl game? Much depends on what happens in October. October says relax and enjoy yourself a bit. My advice is to take a walk. It will improve body, mind, and spirit.
With our smart watches and phones, it is easy to keep track of how many steps we walk each day. Some clever marketing person probably came up with this—but many people aim for 10,000 steps a day. The 10,000 number is easy to remember. But recently notable scientists have tried to be a bit more precise in a couple of major studies. They have concluded that to increase our chances for a long and healthy life, we probably should take at least 7,000 steps a day or play sports such as tennis, cycling, swimming, jogging, or badminton for more than 2.5 hours per week. Get this—the experts say that the right types and amounts of physical activity can reduce the risk of premature death by as much as 70 percent!
The main study that I am talking about was published this month in JAMA Network Open, and it centers on steps—the very thing we are talking about. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the CDC and other institutions seem to have settled on between 7,000 to 9,000 steps daily as the optimal range. It is possible, according to the experts, to overdo exercise. Again, according to the study, we reach diminishing returns after 9,000 steps.
We know through common sense that people who are active outlive those who seldom move. If you need more science on the matter, a 2018 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that about 10 percent of all deaths among Americans 40 to 70 years old are a result of too little exercise. A 2019 European study found that two decades of inactivity doubled Norwegian people’s risk of dying young.
So there you have it! Nice weather and a good reason to get out and walk. Why am I writing about walking? Other than the fact that I like to walk and love October— remember our mission, to improve the health of people we serve with a spirit of compassion and knowledge. That can start with us.