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A healthy, happy high

Our blogger is hooked on hoofing it. She's saving money, too.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 11, 2009 11:45AM
My name is Donna, and I'm a walkaholic. It's been four hours since my last perambulation.

I've always liked walking to a nearby market or to the library. For the past three years there's been plenty of walking on the university campus. But I used the bus, too, and sometimes I even drove my car on errands. Back then, I was still in control.

True, I tended to walk alone when I did walk. And yeah, I got a little antsy if a day went by without a walk. Nothing I couldn't handle.

When I gave away my car last summer, things got out of hand. I began to look for excuses to walk. For example, when I shopped for bananas, tomatoes or other perishables, I'd buy just a few at a time. I'd also choose the ripest ones, so that in another day or two I'd have to walk back to the market.
I knew I was addicted when I started getting off the bus more than a dozen blocks away from the university campus. Oh, I'd tell myself that I wanted to stop by the drugstore or the bank. The real reason? I liked the endorphins. Let's be honest here: I needed the endorphins.

Now I can't go a day without a walk. If the weather is particularly foul or I'm too mired in deadlines for a one-hour stroll, I try to find ways around it. For example, I'm required to do one walk-through a day of the building I manage. On days when I can't get at least a mile in somewhere, I'll do multiple walk-throughs. Naturally, I justify it by calling it an "ergonomic break" from the computer. I'm not fooling anybody but myself, though.

All kidding aside: I'm in total agreement with University of Colorado history professor Patty Limerick, who posted what she calls "Patty's Pedestrian Diet." She lost weight once she began to walk, and now eats whatever she wants. More to the point, Limerick notes that walking is a great chance to think about how to deal with the challenges in your life.

A writer I know says that she thinks "in walk tempo." So do I. And, happily, I'm losing weight, too.

Walking is good for you physically, it helps you unwind and gives your car a day off. It may save you money in the long run, and not only in the form of increased health but also through less wear and tear on your car, less gasoline used and maybe lower auto insurance rates if your weekly mileage drops significantly.

And those endorphins? Limerick calls them one of the "healthiest and happiest ways of getting high." They're among the cheapest, too.

I'm fully aware that long walks aren't an option for everybody. Severe weather, mobility issues, great distance from work or shopping or the need to tote a couple of small children pose great challenges.

I lived for 17 years in Anchorage, Alaska, where many sidewalks were never shoveled and you'd risk your life walking along the side of the road. (You also risked stumbling across a moose kneeling down to lick salt off the pavement.) But now that I live in a climate that is only wet, not icy, I'm finding that walking is an enjoyable addiction. It beats the heck out of joining a fitness center. Treadmills may be drier, but walking is free -- and I don't have to listen to awful gym music, either.

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