Just about any authority on how to beat cancer, or any chronic disease, really, will tell you the top two things are diet and exercise. I think I have the diet part down. Not perfect, but pretty darn good. But I have always — ALWAYS — struggled with exercise. I was as active as the next kid in my youth — climbing trees, riding my bike, playing. Middle school and high school brought dance classes, girl scouts, and marching band for activity. But ever since then, getting a sufficient amount of exercise has been a problem. And that’s a long time!
I’m not sure why I’m not a fan of exercise. I’m not, by nature, a lazy person. I guess I just never found it to be “productive”. Yes, I knew it would make me healthier, but I didn’t feel like I was getting anything accomplished, per se. And I just didn’t find an exercise activity that I liked that much to do it on a regular basis. I love yoga for strength, but I needed something aerobic.
For as long as fitness trackers have been around, I have tried to hit that magical number of “10,000 steps”. I wore my FitBit, took the stairs, parked in the furthest spot, ran in place while doing chores… anything to try to hit that elusive 10,000 steps. I could barely make it to 5,000.
Who picked 10,000 anyway? (apparently it was the Japanese, in the 1960s…) And why is the target 10,000?
According to the Japanese research way back when, 10,000 steps helps you burn approximately 20% of your calorie intake. According to one study, hitting the 10,000 steps resulted in 67% of participants to experience health benefits, such as weight loss, lower blood pressure numbers, and increased energy.
From a cancer standpoint, exercise helps you lose weight and, as we have discussed previously, losing fat means lowering hormone levels and reducing risk for breast cancer. Exercise reduces insulin resistance and other hormones that contribute to cancer growth. Women who walked just 11 minutes a day (11 minutes!) reduced their breast cancer risk by 18%. Increasing that to 3-4 hours a week at moderate to vigorous levels reduced your risk by 30-40%! Oh, and exercise helps ease the side effects of aromatase inhibitors!
With my recent recurrence, my taking Aromasin, and the coronavirus situation (lung health, baby!), exercise was more important than ever, and I needed to figure it out.
Back in November, my husband got me a new treadmill. I was working on increasing my time walking, but then the holidays and my surgery derailed me. Towards the end of February, I was starting to hit my stride, so to speak. I was making it a daily activity and was working on increasing duration, speed, inclines, etc. If quarantine has done one thing for me, it has allowed me to create and maintain this new habit and I’m happy to report that, since the middle of March, I have been averaging over 10,000 steps a day. In fact, in the past week, I have been hitting 12-13,000 steps a day!
The secret to my new-found success?
- Schedule it. Put it on your calendar like any other important activity. For me, it’s the first thing I do after I have my morning smoothie and coffee, and before I shower. Do it early so nothing sabotages your efforts throughout the day.
- Start slow and just gradually increase either time or distance. If I did 1.8 miles yesterday, then I just need to hit 1.9 miles today. A little at time, building endurance.
- Find a distraction while I walk. For me, it’s about binge watching something good. So far it’s been 3 seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale and now Killing Eve. I will also use the time to flip through social media or even read a book.
- Make it a social activity. While this can’t really be done in this age of social distancing, I have been able to go for a walk in the woods with my husband and son at least once a week. You might even try connecting with a friend through technology and chat while you walk together.
- Remind yourself why you’re doing it.
The moral of this story? If *I* can do it, anyone can! I am sweating, dropping a few pounds, and breathing deeper and better.
Just start wherever you are today, and get moving!
IMDb: Magic Number (2013)