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NEWS | April 3, 2006

Walking: We’re made for it!

By 2nd Lt. Rachel Sherburne 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

“Long before humans roamed the earth ...”

Stop right there. If you look closely at this sentence, you might find the key to a healthy lifestyle. Human’s roamed the earth. Believe it or not, early humans were not the sedentary beings that we have become. They didn’t drive cars, sit behind computers all day or even have to go to a gym to stay in shape.

But I’m willing to bet there were few, if any, obese humans long ago. It was survival of the fittest, and that meant that men and women spent their days outside, working the land, hunting, gathering and migrating to follow herd movements and climate changes.

However, times have changed. For most, working the land means mowing the lawn. The only hunting and gathering I do is looking for a coupon to use at the commissary where I can buy all the food I need. And if the climate changes, I just crank up the thermostat.

True, life has become very convenient, but as humans, our health has suffered because of it. The U.S. surgeon general recommends that people should get 150 minutes of exercise a week. In a random sample of 1000 people, less than 50 percent got the recommended weekly amount of exercise.

And humans are not the only ones not getting enough exercise ... our pets are suffering from our lack of activity as well.

In her article, “Fitness with Fido,” Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D. explains that with 65 million dogs, America leads the world in dog ownership. But at the same time it also leads the world in obesity. Mirroring the percentage of overweight humans, Dr. Cederquist explained that nearly 60 percent of our dogs are overweight.

This makes sense when in a random sample, Dr. Cederquist found 59 percent of dog owners never took their dogs for a walk at all! Being overweight can cause serious health problems, too. For people, that can be cardiovascular disease, diabetes and colon cancer. For dogs, it is heart and respiratory problems, diabetes, skeletal stress, and gastrointestinal disorders. So, what is the solution?


At first glance, 150 minutes of exercise may seem daunting, but all you really need to do is walk briskly for 20 minutes a day to reap health benefits.

“A brisk walk should get your heart rate to 100-120 beats per minute and that is great fat-burning exercise,” Col. Kory Cornum, 1st Medical Group commander. One long-term study by Purina showed that dogs kept to a healthy weight lived 15 percent longer than overweight dogs. That same percentage is reflected in human life spans.

Colonel Cornum is a huge advocate of walking and spends at least an hour a day outside walking his dog.

“Walking is my favorite exercise for people. It is weight bearing, but easy on the joints. If you go quickly it burns lots of fat-and you’re not eating while you are walking,” he said.

The colonel also said that his dog is much more manageable after a long walk and that walking is a great way to relieve stress and build strong bones. During the winter season remember to layer your clothing and bundle up. Despite the temperatures, you can still find Colonel Cornum walking around base with his black Labrador.

“I do not know of a specific benefit of fresh air, but it sure makes you feel good.”