Hit the Road, Jack

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By Bill Koch

You can thank your legs for today.

With each step you take, you’re falling, over and over and over again. And with each step, your other leg catches you, lifts you up an inch or so, and repeats the action.

Simply put, walking is repetitive falling. As bipedal creatures, we’ve grown accustomed to the unconscious demands of gravity in its brutal attempts to pull us ever down.

Even our very own government sanctions this outrage.

In 2004, U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Tommy G. Thompson declared the first Friday of April National Walk to Work Day.

Many of you may not still be working, but that shouldn’t prevent you from participating in the full joy of taking to the open path or road side.

Thompson’s aim was to cast light on the rising tide of obesity and sedentary lifestyles in the United States.

The statistics are startling and humbling. If the average American were to set off in a foot race against his counterpart in most any other nation, he’d lose – wheezing, sweating and clutching his chest.

In fact, according to Bloomberg, the U.S. ranks 35 compared to other nations in health rankings. Cuba ranked five places higher than the U.S.

Let’s take a look at the average American male. He weighs 198 pounds and is 5 feet 9 inches tall; he has a 40-inch waist, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. His body mass index is 29, which means he is definitely “overweight.”

How about the woman? She is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 171 pounds. She has a 39-inch waist. Her BMI is 30; she’s considered “obese.”

Now let’s go back in time to Mayberry, a time when John F. Kennedy was president and the world was in black and white. Data show both men and women were on average 24 pounds lighter.

The average bowling ball weighs 24 pounds. How about a small dog, five bags of sugar, a 19-inch flat screen TV, a 2-year-old child or three 1 gallon jugs of water?

The picture gets a little bleaker (or heavier) for seniors. According to American’s Health Rankings, nearly 28 percent of senior women are considered obese. More than 28 percent of seniors are obese.

Thompson’s effort to bring attention to America’s declining health may be conceptually admirable. But, practically, it is misguided.

ABC News states that 220 million Americans spend on average an hour and a half each day in their cars. If your average speed is 30 mph, that’s 45 miles. About 3.3 million people drive at least 50 miles to work one way, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Forty-five miles at a leisurely but consistent pace would take the average walker 15 hours, which really doesn’t leave too much time for work or anything else.

Although 15 hours may not be practical or a good idea, health officials say just 30 minutes day would vastly improve your health. Benefits include weight loss, lower heart disease risk, less chance of developing diabetes and more.

Walking is just good for your body. It improves your emotional and mental health.

Celebrate National Walk to Work Day. Put down that donut, step outside and get a move on, bucko.

How long do you really want to carry around that “bowling ball”?