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We need to get off the couch

One of the best ways for us as Americans to combat the health care crisis in our nation is to exercise regularly.

As the realities of middle-age life have now reached my expanding waistline, I have started trying to go for a daily walk around my neighborhood. There is a park with a three-quarter mile trail. Sometimes I run three miles, but I have found a nice walk burns almost as many calories and is a much more pleasant way to spend my time. I feel refreshed after a brisk walk instead of needing a shower and a nap.

With the Tony Kornheiser podcast on my headphones, I have a chance to get outside, breathe some new air, hear the birds chirp and stretch my muscles while consciously social distancing from my neighbors on the same path. It has become a favorite part of my day.

I used to regularly go to the gym and was a beast on the Stairmaster. I would spend an hour on the machine walking up more than 200 flights of stairs. Now, I’m not sure I will ever be going back to the gym, at least not for a while. There’s just a lot of sweat and bodily fluids there. I certainly wouldn’t want to get on the Stairmaster after someone like me got off of it, even after a proper cleaning. So now I walk.

In addition to the physical benefits, walking clears my head and gives me time to think. In a home with a working spouse and three teenagers, that’s important.

According to an article from the Harvard Medical School, walking is also good for the heart and lowers the risk of stroke.

The key for everyone is to be active doing something.

My mom lives in a retirement community in Hickory, North Carolina. The facility gives her a chance to socialize with other people and provides three good meals a day, something many seniors who live on their own struggle with. Because of COVID-19, she has been confined to her small one-bedroom apartment in the facility for a month and a half now. Her meals are brought to her and she has very little interaction with the other residents. She has an assigned laundry day each Wednesday when she gets the washer and dryer on her floor for two hours. That has become the highlight of her week. She has talked about trying to stay active in her small space. She walks from the bedroom to the kitchen and back again, probably the equivalent of just 10 steps each way but it is better than nothing. She is bored and frustrated at times, but still tries to move around every day.

We have become a nation of couch potatoes. More than 42% of us were characterized as obese in a 2017-18 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If we take the time spent watching the continuous “breaking news” on cable news channels and do some form of exercise, we could probably put a dent in the national debt problem.

In 2008, the annual medical cost for obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion. People who are obese spend $1,429 more per year in medical bills.

In this time of sitting around waiting on the world to change, we need to get moving. Even if it is just walking in circles.

ROGER WATSON is editor of The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is Roger.Watson@FarmvilleHerald.com.