Slow walkers are doomed
(No. 28) Tumbling down the stairs and Coney Island memories. By Stephen P. Williams
(The heart, above, craves attention.)
But first, this: I love that Jade Beal is creating a book of images of older people in all their glory. While I can’t vouch for whether the book will ever see the light of day, the Kickstarter project for Wise Bodies, Beautiful Elders has already been well-funded, and you can watch some interesting videos there.
I often forget I’m 62 years old
I tumbled down these steps, across the sidewalk, and into the gutter — a place I’ve been told I belong.
Since the gym and pool and pilates studio are closed due to the virus, I haven’t been doing as many balance exercises. Instead, I’ve been taking daily long walks for exercise and mental health, social distancing all the way, except when trapped on a path between a runner and a one-wheeler.
‘The other day, crossing Seventh Avenue on a walk I tripped on the curb and fell flat on my face. I mean flat — no way to stop it. Though I was shaken, I hopped right back up, not wanting anyone nearby to think I was just another old person. But I felt like one. A lot of people, young and old, are feeling less vibrant now because of the shelter in place orders and lack of exercise.
Today I saw the effects of doing far less pilates and balance work than I did pre-corona. At the top of my stoop are two grey pots, each home to a lush clematis that is climbing and preparing to bloom. While trying to rig some blue grey twine for the vines to climb, I needed something to stand on so I could reach the light fixture I wanted as the top anchor.
“Don’t stand on that pot, it might break,” I told myself. But I did, and it broke, and I fell hard on my ankles and tumbled down the stoop and rolled into the curb moaning and swearing, pretty sure I’d broken my leg. A passing jogger stood 6 feet away and asked if I was ok. I nodded and she fled, probably because I’d neglected to put on my anti-virus mask. I was broken and contagious and covered in dirt — not a good look.
Hurting like hell, I climbed the five flights to my apartment, hanging on the railing for support, and had a video call with my doctor who told me to just take some OTC painkillers and see how I felt in the morning. I also cancelled my planned afternoon walk. Today, I’m ok, though it’s still painful to climb up to my apartment. I know that if I’d been doing more mat work, I would have caught myself yesterday. So today I stretched and did mat pilates and I’m going to head out on a walk this afternoon, discomfort be damned. I know that moving helps injuries heal.
The lesson: Don’t let this virus ruin your fitness, which is more important than ever. Also, if your brain says, “Don’t climb on that,” listen to it. I had a fool’s luck in not being more seriously hurt.
Walk right. Walk fast. Walk long.
A woman walking down the middle of Avenida Paulista in Sao Paolo, Brazil Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash
This bums me out: Recent research published in JAMA Network Open shows that people who walk more slowly at age 45 tend to have accelerated physical and cognitive aging, according to several biomarkers, including body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, dental health and brain structure. Plus, the slow walkers just look older. Damn! All my life, everyone’s walked faster than me, especially in New York. Both my wives were always way ahead of me when we walked —- but maybe that’s a separate issue.
Even before reading this study, I was trying to get myself to walk faster on my daily 4 or 5 miles around the city. And I’m gonna keep it up, using my iWatch to track my pace. It’s fun to move fast.
“Doctors know that slow walkers in their 70s and 80s tend to die sooner than fast walkers their same age,” said Terrie E. Moffitt, one of the Duke University scientists who published the study.
Here’s some good advice on how to walk properly.
The researchers also found that walking in general cuts coronary risk by 1/3 in men and women, even in people who walk as slowly as 2 mph. The longer you walk and the faster the pace the bigger the benefits. Those benefits include coping better with depression, regulating blood sugar levels, improving cognition and more. Plus, walking is easier on your body than running. Walk two to four miles a day to start, and see how you feel. It can be boring at first, but music, audio books and phone calls can help. If you can let yourself walk without headphones, you’ll eventually find that walking is an idea generating activity. You might just walk your way into writing a novel, or launching a startup.
You can listen to these songs about walking as you walk
Who wouldn’t enjoy taking a walk with Jill Scott?
I always encourage people to walk on their wild side, whatever that may be.
I remember hearing this blasting from all the speakers one afternoon while walking around Coney Island. The song brings that light, air and the NYC scene right to life. Oh yeah, and I guess it’s about walking.