In this 200th anniversary year of the birth of Henry David Thoreau, each of us can increase our health and well-being by applying his guidance to our regular exercise activities. Thoreau, one of the United States’ greatest writers, naturalists, and philosophers, not only walked the length and breadth of Concord, his beloved hometown in Massachusetts, but also walked and hiked far and wide across farms, riverbeds, parklands, and mountains all over Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
In Thoreau’s time, in the early and middle decades of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was just beginning to impact daily life. In those days, men and women still engaged in substantial quantities of physical labor, and exercise as such was never conceived as necessary. At present, in marked contrast, regular exercise is a key requirement for a healthy life. We need to break away, for at least 30 minutes every day, from our computer monitors and our mobile device screens. Thoreau would not recognize the sprawling urbanity of our cramped cities and their satellite suburbs, but he would likely strongly encourage us to get out there, walk as much as we can, and enjoy as much green space as possible.
For Thoreau, being outdoors was imperative. In his revered essay, “Walking,” he informed his readers that he could not stay in his “chamber for a single day without acquiring some rust.” Admittedly, our mode of living is quite different from his. For many of us, getting to some green space requires a bit of effort. However, in the 21st century, we need to make sure we’re doing sufficient vigorous exercise, and walking on city streets and avenues count as much as walking along a tree-lined lane.
For those of us who haven’t done any regular exercise for some time, walking is an optimal way to get back in shape. Regardless of one’s age, renewing one’s acquaintance with the process of exercise should be a gradual process. Start slowly, beginning with a 15-minute walk at a slow pace. Increase your pace over time until you’re able to do a brisk 15-minute walk. Then increase your duration in small increments, decreasing your pace if needed. Within, typically, four to six weeks, you’ve become able to do a brisk 30-minute walk. Longer durations may be appropriate, whenever possible. The federal government recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise five times a week to achieve and maintain good health.
Regular chiropractic care helps us achieve our exercise goals and is an important component of our overall health and well-being strategy. Regular chiropractic care helps our spines maintain their balance, flexibility, and mechanical integrity, and a well-functioning spinal column helps ensure optimal activity of our nerve system. When the nerve system, our body’s master system, is functioning properly, all our other physiological systems are able to do their jobs more effectively. In this way, regular chiropractic care helps us get the most out of our exercise activities and helps us obtain high levels of health and wellness.
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- Ulmer JM1, et al: Multiple health benefits of urban tree canopy: The mounting evidence for a green prescription Health Place 42:54-62, 2016
- Cox DTC, et al; Doses of Neighborhood Nature: The Benefits for Mental Health of Living with Nature BioScience 67(2):147-155, 2017