Dr. Merrill says keep moving, no matter how you do it

Even regular walking can reduce the risks of physical and mental illnesses.

  • Tuesday, February 26, 2019 10:45am
  • Life
Dr. Jim Merrill, who has more than 44 years on experience in his field, retired in spring 2015.

Dr. Jim Merrill, who has more than 44 years on experience in his field, retired in spring 2015.

Keep Moving! No matter how old you are, it is clear that even some activity is better than none. Recently, modern science has learned from multiple studies that your health, both physical and mental, will benefit by moving more and sitting less. Habits for Happiness – SoHaPP has recommended strengthening five behaviors to develop happiness and vibrant well being. Being Grateful, Positive, Mindful and Kind are the four mentioned in previous articles. This month’s habit is to be Active, and keep moving!

Obesity and sedentary behavior is epidemic in the United States. Research studies have correlated increased rates of cancer and degenerative disease in those inactive and overweight. Regular aerobic activity prevents these diseases and reduces your weight, and the good news is that all you have to do is just start moving. Regular walking of at least 30 minutes, five times a week is correlated with reduced rates of physical and mental illness. You do not have to run or get on a bike. In fact, walking regularly has been proven to reduce heart disease even more than vigorous running exercises.

The list of health benefits from regular activity is long and impressive, with lower risk of the following: heart disease, stroke, increased blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type II diabetes. Regular activity helps prevent breast, colon, bladder, esophagus, kidney, stomach, lung, uterus cancers. Regular activity lowers the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s, and improves cognition for adults over 50 and those with dementia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and ADHD. Regular activity lowers the risk of developing depression, including postpartum depression, and diminishes the symptoms for those with anxiety and depression. Regular activity lowers the risk of falls and fall related injuries for older adults, and improves bone health, physical functions, sleep quality and overall quality of life.

There is also evidence to show that regular walking will make you more productive and creative – a happier person. Buddhism has always seen walking as a practice toward happier, healthier and higher minded living. The greatest minds of all humanity have benefited by regular walking: Einstein, Aristotle, Darwin and Dickens all thrived because of it. Dickens would write each day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then walk the rest of the day. He’d go up to 20 to 30 miles at a time! Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal about walking, saying, “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” A study at Stanford University showed that walking regularly made participants 60 percent more creative than their sedentary counterparts.

As we age, all of us worry about our memory and our risk for Alzheimer’s. Many experiments have shown that after mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Regular walking also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with aging, increases the volume of the Hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

But along with worrying about older folks, let’s think of the younger ones. Get children to be active every day, to keep moving every day, and their chances of better health and happiness will improve. Can you help your children be more active? On March 2 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. come to the west side of Garrett Park, 2298 Porter St., Enumclaw, and the SoHaPP team will show fun games for children involving movement. There will be an obstacle course, games with balloons and fun stuff to do for all ages of children. Parents must be present for their children to participate. Be sure to check our Facebook page if there is stormy weather and we have to cancel. Another idea for kids’ movement is going to the dog park, or any open area if leashed, and have your child take a dog through an obstacle course. The dog and child will have fun, and the child will “keep moving.”

Speaking of “Keep Moving,” come to the Enumclaw Public Library on March 13 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. for a discussion of “Keep Moving: And Other Truths About Living Well Longer” by Dick Van Dyke. The Sequel has it for 25 percent off, and it’s a great read.

Physical wellness is created by a combination of many factors. You can learn more at the Science of Happiness and Positive Psychology’s website, www.sohapp.org. The goal is to create daily and long term happiness and longer life spans by making these simple life style changes. But for right now, rather than take the time to learn more evidence about healthy living, why don’t you go outside and take a walk!

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