To say we are a car culture is an understatement; we use our cars so frequently that many people walk less than half a mile each day. Our lack of exercise is so pronounced, even among the young, that obesity rates, type two diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are becoming epidemic.
For you couch potatoes out there, the many television commercials touting new drugs to combat Type 2 diabetes give a good indication of our nation’s overall health, and it’s not good. With each passing year, those developing Type 2 diabetes are getting younger. Diabetes is a dreadful, and often silent, assailant; it is the leading cause of amputation, kidney failure, and eye damage, but these effects do not show up until diabetes has affected the body for some time. It’s estimated that up to 40 million Americans who are diabetic don’t even know it. By the time their health is affected, it’s often too late to arrest the damage.
Diabetes is a progressive disease, but its progress can be slowed or even reversed through a combination of a low-carb diet and exercise. And one of the easiest and most effective types of exercise is walking. A daily walk of even 20 to 30 minutes helps control weight-gain and reduces blood sugar, and its effects last for many hours. Over time, walking becomes easier and longer walks feel natural.
Here in Sonoma and Sonoma Valley, options for walking are abundant. For those not comfortable dealing with hills, there are flat areas with good sidewalks. Those who are ready for more vigorous walking can make their way up the Montini or Overlook Trails. Just wandering for an hour on foot offers a neighborly exercise that can be rewarded with a cup of coffee or tea on the Plaza and chatting with others enjoying what our area has to offer.
Try walking to buy groceries or dropping mail at the post office instead of hopping in your car. You’ll be surprised by how much ground you can cover in 30 to 60 minutes. At an average rate of even two and a half miles per hour, you can walk all the way across town in that time, from Seventh Street East to Maxwell Village on the west side. If you’re looking for a safe place to walk, Sonoma’s bike path is beautiful, car-free, and well-paved.
Before you take up walking, make sure you have some comfortable and proper-fitting shoes. Unless you plan to hike up muddy trails, well-soled athletic shoes work fine. And if you have any questions or concerns about adding daily exercise to your life, speak with your doctor about how to begin. As in most activities, it’s best to begin modestly and increase your exertion level gradually.
Once you begin walking, you’ll quickly we bet you’ll quickly come to enjoy it. An added bonus, is that leaving your car behind not only helps your overall health, but reduces your carbon footprint. And, you can be part of the solution to Sonoma’s traffic problem. In short, walking is a feel-good activity in every way.