Working Out in the US
Listen to this while you read
Why not walk?
Exercising in America seems to be more of a chore than fun. In fact, it seems to be either taken too seriously or not taken into consideration at all. Simply going for a walk in your neighborhood, or just not driving your car to the corner post office is exercise. However, many Americans seem to think that exercise is only exercise when we buy expensive running shoes and outfits, strap on a water bottle and iPod, drive to the park (which is only 5 minutes away), and then sweat and push and suffer though a "real" workout.
It's either this, or just not doing anything at all. The problem with going for a walk in many cities is that those in cars automatically assume you lost your drivers license because of a DUI or that you have some kind of mental problem. It's just strange to see people on the street or sidewalk walking to actually go somewhere, as opposed to those who run. Those who run are seen as exercising, but those who are just walking in street clothes are assumed to be delinquents of some kind right from the get-go. So, if you just want to go for a walk anywhere that's not a park or a nicer suburb, you are seen as having something wrong with you. This is a no-win situation.
The American dependence on cars is well known, and doesn't seem to be abating. We still pay about half the price for gas as in other industrialized countries, yet we complain about how much that price has gone up recently. Granted, not many US cities have anything close to a good public transport system. And unfortunately, using public transport carries a stigma in the eyes of many Americans. Many people who use public transport are assumed to be poor because it is assumed that they cannot afford to buy or to keep up a car.
Many drivers truly seem stunned when people actually use a crosswalk in many areas of the country. Despite the fact that pedestrians have the right of way when they get a green light at the crosswalk they seem to go unnoticed by drivers who are too busy eating, drinking, using their telephones, or just staring off into space. I have seen many pedestrians almost run over in crosswalks where they have the right of way.
Things probably won't change soon, however. No matter how expensive gas gets, people in the US will not part from their cars. The plethora of weight loss programs available on TV is still mind boggling: lose weight by meditation!; by eating nothing other than steak and beans!; buy watching TV and getting your feet massaged!; buy jumping up and down for 5 minutes a day for 30 days you can lose 50 lbs etc. People must be buying these scams, otherwise we wouldn't see new ones developed on what seems like a daily basis.
So, why not just try walking a bit?
Walking doesn't hurt your knees as much as running can, which has substantially more impact. While walking you can also talk, look around, enjoy the sights, and most important work your heart without stressing it out. Walking is one of the most natural movements we make. Walking lets you take the air in a natural way and with natural breathing.
Ever been to the park and you see people sweating and panting and just generally looking miserable as they run? The only thing going through their minds is most likely looking forward to the moment when they can stop this self imposed torture. Walking lets you think and come up with ideas. Running for most people is a chore, even though they try to fool themselves into believing that they are doing something useful. By this I mean people who run merely for the sake or losing weight or exercising. Of course there are those who run as an actual hobby and as a sport. For them running is actually enjoyment.
I've noticed that there is a new fad for people to run half marathons and 10 K runs etc. This is great if you want to post a self satisfied status update in Facebook concerning how much time you ran it in, but I have a feeling this will fade out of popularity in the future as well. Another favorite form of self advertising I've seen is people posting how many miles they ran on any given day on Facebook. This is clearly an attempt at angling for praise from "friends". If you really are running for your own good, why advertise it every chance you get?
Walking, then, is the new running.