Turning Back the Aging Clock Through Walking
That old adage, "When it rains, it pours," perfectly described the critical events in recent years that caused me to reshuffle my life. In April 2005, I was laid off from a job that I had been totally committed to. Five months later, Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and moved to an area nursing home; thus, I became the key caretaker. In October 2006, my 80-something-year-old father moved to the area, potentially placing me in a caregiving mode in the future. In September 2007, Mom died.
Why bring up this barrage of events? I was thinking about the current issues that many readers of these shareposts may be facing. Caregiving issues for a loved one with dementia may be overwhelming, but how do you cope when you also are being laid off from work or facing economic hardships due to the high cost of energy (and everything else)?
Over the weekend, I was thumbing through You: Staying Young, the fascinating book written by Dr. Michael F. Roizen and Dr. Mehmet C. Oz. Chapter 3 discusses stress, and categorizes this health nemesis into three types - ongoing low-level stress, nagging unfinished tasks, and major life events. The third category - which includes divorce, a move, a job change, a death, a sudden illness, and bankruptcy (and which I believe also includes taking on caregiving chores for a loved one) - was what caught my eye. And here's the kicker, according to the esteemed doctors: "The stats show that three major life events in a one-year period will make your body feel and act as thought it were thirty-two years older in the following year-meaning that it's especially important to develop coping strategies and support systems to sustain you in times of crisis."
Thirty-two years older due to stress!! That's a sobering thought! So how do you counteract the impact of major stressors? Michael O'Shea in the June 29, 2008 issue of Parade noted that the fountain of youth lies in exercise. According to a British journal focused on sports medicine, maintaining aerobic fitness could delay the aging process. And that cardio exercise can be as simple as taking a brisk 30-minute walk.
That brings me to a cool program that was announced in May by the Cleveland Clinic (where Dr. Roizen serves as the chief wellness officer) and Google. The program, entitled "Walk for Good" The program offers an easy-to-use web-based "gadget" through a person's personalized Google homepage where users can track the duration and frequency of their walks during the 15-week program. The program also contains health education video segments featuring leading Cleveland Clinic physicians on health and wellness tips. Furthermore, Google will make a $100,000 to various health charities. Those participants who started by July 13, 2008 and reach the end of the 15-week program on or before October 25, 2008 with a total program score of 50% or higher will be invited to vote for the charity of their choice from a list of several health charities.
Several friends and I decided to give the "Walk for Good" program a go. I just completed the first week, and it was very easy to do. I walked three times last week, enjoying watching my progress add up on the Google tool. You need a Google account and can add the tool (located at http://www.google.com/webmasters/igoogle/goforgood.html) easily to your individual Google webpage. The first week of the program, you're supposed to walk three days for 20 minutes; by week 15, the plan calls for you to work up to walking 45 minutes five days a week.
I also have started watching the videos that are included as part of the program, as well as checked out the Cleveland Clinic-prepared resources. For instance, Week Two's video focuses on the importance of stretching, which I found really interesting since I've dealing with a case of planter fasciitis (severe pain in the heel of my foot).
All in all, I consider this walking program a step in the right direction. My goal is to make sure that my body's biological clock gets turned back so that the various stresses that life has thrown my way in the past few years are negated.
I hope you'll join me in "splurging" in this free fountain of youth. It can do us all good!