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Weekend House Call: Walking

Aired July 13, 2003 - 08:28   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: All right. Good morning and welcome to WEEKEND HOUSE CALL. We're at the CNN Center here in Atlanta. We're talking about walking, it may be the simplest fitness exercise you can do. It's free, it's easy and you can do it anywhere, even here in the CNN Center. We had to go indoors they say it was going to rain outside. All you need is a good pair of shoes and the time to get a plan that helps Americans stay on the move. CNN Elizabeth Cohen has the story.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may be the simplest weight control program ever. Walk an extra 2000 steps a day and health experts say you won't gain the one to three pounds that most American's gain each year.

TOMMY THOMPSON, HHS SECRETARY: Walking is so easy, it's so good for you.

COHEN: Two thousand steps is about a mile or to put it another way, if you were at Chicago's Wrigley Field and walked around the bases 14 times, that's 2000 steps, like all baseball diamonds.

Or if you were in New York City and walked 20 blocks, that's also about 2000 steps.

(on camera): It's pretty easy to work the extra steps into your day. For example, if I park at the far end of the parking lot at work, already I've added 500 steps. And then if I take a 15 minute walk after lunch, I've done my 2000 steps for the day.

(voice-over): Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, wears a pedometer every day to count his steps. He says he's added 7,000 steps to his daily routine and that's helped him lose 15 pounds.

THOMPSON: And, if I look down and see that I've only done 1,000 or 1500 steps in the middle of the afternoon, I then decide to walk up the steps instead of taking an elevator.

COHEN: Now, no one's saying more than 2,000 steps a day will solve the nation's obesity problem, but at least it's simple, relatively easy start.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: All right. Already -- over 17 million Americans are already walking for fitness. The health benefits are really truly amazing. Walking can lower your blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease, and help -- it can help fend off diabetes by improving the body's ability to use insulin. Amazing benefits. Walking eases the pain and stiffness of arthritis and prevents osteoporosis and can help you lose weight. If you exercise you'll also be less stressed out and be able to sleep better. All of this from a simple walk. Well, we want to answer your questions about it. I'm sure you -- there are questions out there. Our phone lines are already open, call us at 1-800-807-2620 or e-mail your question to And, to help us answer your questions we're joined by the pros this morning, first of all, John Bingham in Seattle, he's an author and a reformed couch potato. We're going to be talking to him about that.

John, thank you so much for being with us.

JOHN BINGHAM, AUTHOR: Good morning, glad to be here.

GUPTA: Thank you.

And, I also want to introduce Jim Norvill and Ellen Miller who are here from the Walking Club of Georgia. They've come to give us pointers on technique and just getting started if you haven't started as of yet.

Thank you first of all to all of you at home for being here. We have a lot of e-mail questions coming in, we want to answer as many as we can. So, we're going to get right to it.

Fred from Illinois writes, "I understand mere walking does not usually cause the heart to beat in the aerobic range," this is a common concern, "if this is true, what is the chief advantage of walking?"

And, John Bingham in Seattle, you're somebody that started walking and used walking to really lose a lot of weight and reform your life. Talk about that, please.

BINGHAM: Well, yeah and I -- just to give you a little bit of background, I started this about 10 years ago and I weighed 240 pounds, smoked since high school, pretty good drinker. So, I'm in the coming from the perspective of a former high school athlete or collegiate athlete, I was a former fat guy that learned that moving around a little bit was just the secret. You've got kind of three levels of heart rate. When you're sitting down there's -- your heart is kind of beating to keep you alive, if you move at all your heart has to pump little more blood just to respond to that, and then if you go to a higher level -- you know, it's going to have to really respond. So, any movement at all will get your heart rate up some. Anytime you get it up some, you're doing yourself good.

GUPTA: Got it. And you know, one thing, people really talk about the heart rate monitors. Jim Norvill is here. Jim, you actually wear a heart monitor and you -- when you walk you actually measure your heart rate, but for people at home if they don't have a heart monitor, what should they do in terms of taking their heart rate?

JIM NORVILL, WALKING CLUB OF GEORGIA : If they don't have a heart monitor, they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) want to stop -- stop while you're walking and take your pulse fro your carotid artery and you would hold it for 15 seconds, take a count with your secondhand watch and then you would multiply that four and that would be your heart rate. If..

GUPTA: All right.

NORVILL: If you just a heart rate monitor, then you simply read it from your monitor. Your transmitter would transfer the heart rate and that's it.

GUPTA: OK, easy enough it seems. There's another e-mail question coming in. Ellen, I'm going to have you jump in on this as well.

Peter from Israel asks, "Is there a benefit from rapid walking and going uphill as compared to leisurely level workouts? How much should one do to really push themselves?

ELLEN MILLER, WALKING CLUB OF GEORGIA: Absolutely there's a benefit. I mean, the term workout, you should feel like you're working. If you're walking leisurely there's some benefit, but if you're walking up hill or walking faster, you get much more benefit.

GUPTA: And that happens -- what's your typical walking pattern like?

MILLER: I do a 12 minute mile. We have walkers who do any -- eight minute miles or less. The Olympic race walkers that we know can do a six minute mile. So, you can go very fast.

GUPTA: They walk six minutes -- mile?


GUPTA: That's incredible. And, walking in the morning or the evening better?

MILLER: It depends, whenever you will walk consistently that's better. I heard some studies that say walking in the morning is better, but I'm not getting up at 5:00 like my sister. So, I walk in the evening.


MILLER: Exactly.

GUPTA: OK, really quick, I'm going to have Jim -- Jim if you could actually do some of the demonstrating now, of walking techniques and maybe Ellen, I'll have you talk about it as Jim's actually demonstrating this.

Go ahead and give us some technique there, Jim if you would.


MILLER: Jim's going to be race walking and race walking is just a method of walking fast. The faster you can walk the better. You've got your heart rate up, you've -- you get the same cardio vascular benefits as someone who jogs slowly. Now, Jim is not walking as fast as he can, right now. He basically is walking -- and I can give you some of the things we try to think about. You're sort of walking on a balance beam, you're not having your legs farther apart, you're trying to go very straight forward, you're trying to walk lightly, you don't want to have the impact that runners do because a lot of us race walkers have bad knees by this point in our lives, so you want to walk gently and just walk as fast as you can with short steps rather than very long strides.

GUPTA: Talk about the shoes and I noticed the heel to toe walking, as well. I mean, that's a...

MILLER: Exactly.

GUPTA: ...that's a real specified technique in terms of walking, right?

MILLER: Right. You sort of walk -- we call it "with rocking feet" you land on your heel and you sort of roll forward and you push off...



GUPTA: Almost 75 percent of Americans fail to get 30 minutes of daily exercise a day. One-third of us live and they officially defined, as sedentary. Only 3 percent of Americans exercise 60 minutes a day.

We can try and change that. This is WEEKEND HOUSE CALL, we're talking about the health benefits of walking. Everybody can do it and it's goof for you, as well.

If you have a specific question, give us a call and we'll ask our pros, we have them here with us, as well. Our number 1-800-807-2620 or e-mail us as We'll get those calls and those e- mails lined up and be back with answers in just 30 seconds. Stay with us.


GUPTA: We're talking about walking this morning on WEEKEND HOUSE CALL. Did you know walking uses almost all of the 650 muscles and 206 bones in the body? More than any other single sport --amazing fact, and in a more balanced way.

Well, let's jump right back in with more e-mail questions. We want to hear from you.

This e-mail coming from Trisha in Johnsonville, South Carolina who writes, "I've been walking two miles almost daily for two months in addition to my normal work and home activities. I haven't lost any weight at this point and was wondering what my caloric intake should be in order to promote weight loss."

And, John in Seattle -- John Bingham, go ahead and talk about that. She wants to lose weight. Is walking going do it for her?

BINGHAM: Yeah, and this is a great question. Of course, this comes up all the time. Let's get something cleared up real quick. Calories are about moving a weight over a certain distance. You burn up 100 calories for a mile, so if that mile takes 30 minutes, it takes 100 calories, if it takes you 6 minutes, you still only burn 100 calories. So, you've got to kind of balance that intake with the amount of energy that you're burning and if you look at the bang for the buck, if it takes you 20 minutes to go for a mile, you can eat that hundred calories in about 15 seconds. So, it's really about balancing the amount of food you're putting into and the amount of exercise that's burning the calories going out of your body. If your weight is not coming down, you have to lower your caloric intake.

GUPTA: Good point. And John, real quick before we take and go to our first caller, you lost so much weight, you were 240 pounds, smoking, drinking as you say. Tell us about your first, sort of, workout routine when you started getting into it.

BINGHAM: Well, that's it. And I think it's -- the dangers in overcomplicating this. You know, when we talk about a 12 minute mile or eight minute mile, you know, at my stage of that at 240 pounds, I was lucky to get a mile in 30 minutes and so, for me even walking an entire mile was an impossibility. You've simply got to get up, you got to get out, and got to get going and you've got to make the commitment to just being more active. And, it's parking a little things, it is parking a little bit farther from the door, it's getting up and walking somewhere to go get the paper, rather than hoping in your car, it is not a matter of turning your life into some sort of daily workout that -- you know, is another stressor. Walking is a natural instinct -- I mean, every baby wants to get up and start walking, if we can recapture that, I think walking becomes just a part of the real joy of being alive.

GUPTA: That's really good advice. I think we take so many short cuts in our society; maybe not taking so many would help us get into better shape.

Let's take our caller, here. Terry (sic) from Michigan, go ahead, sir.

HARRY: Yes, good morning.

GUPTA: Good morning.

HARRY: I'm 76 years old and I have a history of coronary artery disease. I had bypass in 1987 and I walk about a mile -- I walk a mile about three days a week and it takes me 20 minutes. And also recently, I developed a thing called Paget's disease; it's a bone type of thing. My concern here is -- you know, should I continue with this or is -- am I in a safe -- you know, safe area, environment or whatever? And, I do this walking about half a mile from home at a school ground and I guess that's pretty much my question.

GUPTA: All right. OK. Terry, Allen, were you able to hear the question, there?


GUPTA: What would you say to Terry. 76 years old, has this history of cardiac disease. You have a lot of people in your walking club. What would you tell someone like Terry?

MILLER: All right, well, first of all he needs to check with his doctor and make sure that it's all right with him. We've got members in their 70s who do marathons every month, so as long as his physician agrees that he should be walking then I think walking's excellent.

GUPTA: What's the latest you've seen someone actually start a walking routine like this?

MILLER: At any age, every age. People can get off the couch at any point in their lives as long, again if they have any concerns with their health they should check with their doctor first.

GUPTA: Inspire is a little bit. What's the oldest person you've seen doing a marathon, now?

MILLER: I met a lady this past Friday, she is 80, she started walking at 65. She has done 69 marathons in that period of time, and she...

GUPTA: Over 16 years...


GUPTA: 69 marathons

MILLER: Uh-huh.

GUPTA: That is inspiring for sure. Let's go to another e-mail question, here. I'm sorry John, did you have something to say?

MILLER: Oh no. I just was smiling because my own mother started walking when she was 65 and she is, in fact, a race walker. She's been to the senior Olympics three times.

BINGHAM: And so, yeah, you can start a any age and some people at this age discover they've actually got a lot of talent and a lot of drive and a lot of competitive fire, so at any age, it's never too late.

GUPTA: And I can say from a medical perspective, certainly much easier on the joints, as well. The knees start to hurt a lot more when you're running those distances.


GUPTA: Let's go to our next e-mail, Tom from Great Mills, Maryland, writes, "I enjoy a brisk walk of about three miles each day. Do I get as much of a health benefit from a brisk walk as I would from jogging?"

And, all these questions sort of along the same thing, people have a hard time believing, John Bingham in Seattle, that you can you can actually get as much of a health benefit from just walking as you can from running. What do you say to -- what do you say to a question like that?

BINGHAM: Well, I think you to define what it is you're trying to get out of it. I mean, if you look at the sport of running or the activity of running, that's a great thing to do if that's what you want, but the activity of walking is also fantastic. There's a great benefits that you're going to get from just being more active than you right now. A brisk walk is certainly going to give you tremendous cardio benefits, going to give you some aerobic benefits and it's going tone up your muscles. So, unless you're after that sort of competitive part of being out there and being in a running race, walking is probably a much better way to go.

GUPTA: Yeah. Let's keep going with the e-mails, here. Linda from Seattle writes, "I'm working out with a trainer to get in shape and to lose weight. He says I'll get the best results if I walk uphill on the treadmill for 45 to 60 minutes three to five times a week. Does that ring true with you, as well?"

Ellen, again, not just walking, but the type of walking. She walks on a treadmill uphill. Obviously it's going to be a little bit more of an aerobic workout.

MILLER: I think that's an excellent plan for her. I -- uphill makes it more difficult, you're working harder, so that's excellent, three times a week, 45-60 minutes sounds perfect. I personally don't like treadmills, simply because I'd rather be outside, I'd rather be walking with other people and talking, but if that fits in her schedule, that's excellent.

GUPTA: Right. And, harder the better, faster the better -- walking?

MILLER: Exactly.

OK. Just like running, I guess.

A lot of information about walking. When we come back we're going to take a look at some of the stretches. Some real specifics, here. You should do these before you warm up to start walking. We'll also find out the best time of day to walk. We're going to talk about all these things. Stay with us on WEEKEND HOUSE CALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA: Welcome back to WEEKEND HOUSE CALL. Well, we're talking this morning about the benefits of walking. Walking is a safe choice for most Americans, I'd say all Americans, mainly because it's lower impact than running or aerobics. A walker lands with one-fifth the impact of a jogger or aerobicizer. Important information. Walking is also easier to stick with, only 25 percent of people quit walking after they've started compared to 50 or 60 percent of people who start other exercise regimens.

Lots e-mails, lots phone calls coming in about this. Go straight to our next e-mail question, this is one is from Katie in Portland. She writes, "I am overweight and would like to know how I should start a walking regimen. Also, I have shin splints, what is a good stretch warm-up for that in particular?"

Good points, both of those, Ellen. What do you say to Katie? She wants -- she's overweight, she wants to get into it. What are the words or what are the first things she should think about?

MILLER: First thing to think about, get off the couch. Decide on a schedule that she can keep, whether it's three days a week after work, three mornings a week, whatever fits her schedule and start walking. Do whatever she can do comfortably. It might be a half an hour, three times a week; it may be an hour and then just gradually increase over time.


MILLER: Shin splints are -- plague all new walkers. There's a couple of stretches that are really easy to do that will take care of that and over the first couple weeks you'll notice that you don't have the shin splints.

GUPTA: OK and I'm going to ask Jim to go ahead and start demonstrating some of these stretches. And, we're going to talk about these stretches.

Jim, if you want to go ahead and start demonstrating some of these.

Ellen, maybe you can describe a little bit about what he's doing here.


NORVILL: OK. Basically four stretches. The first one would be a -- a calf stretch and you'd only do these stretches after a good warm-up. You never stretch cold muscles. The second stretch would be a quad stretch. The third stretch would be a hamstring stretch. And you hold these for about 30 seconds. And, you don't -- and for a hamstring you would not lean into this to the point of pain, you only -- to the point of just light pressure. And, the last stretch would be for the shin splints, would be a shin stretch, and that would be this one here. And, that's basically the four stretches.

GUPTA: OK, Hey, and the best time to actually do these stretches is when?

MILLER: You need to have your muscles warm, you can walk for...


MILLER: ...five or ten minutes until you feel warm and then stretch and continue your workout or if you think you're fairly flexible go ahead and do your workout after gradually warming up and then stretching very well after. I do want to add one more shin stretch that helps me a lot. If you stand on the edge of a curb and let your heel sort of drop down.

GUPTA: Fall down.

MILLER: Or a stair or wherever, that really stretches out your calf and that relieves your shin of some of the pressure, too.

GUPTA: It's going to feel good for Katie, as well, for her shin splints.

OK, let's go to our next phone caller. Silvia from New York has a question.

Go ahead Silvia, good morning.

SILVIA: Good morning, I'd like to know is it best to walk before you eat or after you eat. I like to get out early in the morning before breakfast.

GUPTA: That's a very good question. John Bingham, what do you say to Silvia? Before or after you eat.

BINGHAM: The answer is whatever is best for you. I mean, some people can't get out and move unless they get a little food in your system. I'm the kind of guy -- I like to have at least a piece of toast or something before I get out do my sessions in the morning. But, if it's working for you it's fine. I don't think there's going to be any particular benefit one way or the other. If you can move with food in your stomach, that's great, if you a you can't, then do it without.

GUPTA: All right. Let's go straight to our next e-mail question. Porter from Alabama asks, "Is it safer to walk, briskly, in the cool of in the morning, as opposed to during the hot part of the day? Does exercise the heat," I guess the question, "cause your body to burn calories quicker?"

John, you know, these questions coming up over and over again regarding morning or afternoon and after meals, before meals. Do you -- I know that you say, what's best for you. But, are there some guidelines here? If you really want to be serious about losing weight?

BINGHAM: Well, I think the key is consistency. You have to find a way to make this activity part of your normal routine and some of us are morning people, some of us are not morning people and if you're like me, and you're not a morning person, the idea that you're going to get up at 5:00 every morning and walk for an hour, you just know you're doomed to failure. Heat versus non-heat, I mean you're going to sweat a little bit more. If it's hot, it may make you look like you're losing weight if you start to compare your weight before and after your session. But, the fact of the matter is, it's over time increasing your activity level, increasing the calories burned, and monitoring your food intake a little bit. Those are the kind of things to think about, not everyday what's going to be best here or there, but looking at long term adding activity to your life in a way that will work for you over time.

GUPTA: And, you know, I've talked to a lot of trainers about things like that and they really reinforce this consistency theme. It tends to change our whole life when you have a consistent workout pattern in your life everyday.

More phone calls coming in. John from Connecticut. Go ahead, John.

JOAN: Ah, yes, it's Joan.

GUPTA: All right, it's Joan from Connecticut. Yes.

JOAN: Yes. I'm a 67-year-old homeowner and sometimes I find that after a busy day of just shopping and doing errands and carrying in my groceries, I feel as though I've had my workout and I'm too tired to get on the treadmill. Does just daily (UNINTELLIGIBLE) shopping and errands and picking up and gardening, does that add up to a walking workout?

GUPTA: I think that's an excellent question, Ellen. And -- you know, one thing about daily activities and John, we'll bring you in, as well, but, you bring -- you do these daily activities. How much do they really count towards that working out?

MILLER: They absolutely count. They don't count as much as a walking, as a brisk walk, but they certainly do count. I would suggest to this lady that she try to do 15 minutes a day or get out at lunch. Just, I think, once she does a short exercise, 15 minutes, 30 minutes that's going to make her feel better, help her with her stress, make her sleep better. So, I think it could add to her day.

All right, well, we are going to have some final thoughts when we get back about walking. It's a lot easier than you think 2,000 steps to better health. Ellen, John, Jim we're all going to have our final thoughts when we get back.


GUPTA: Well, that's all the time we have for today.


GUPTA: Thanks for watching WEEKEND HOUSE CALL. We got a couple guests that we want to thank, Jim and Ellen, here in Atlanta and John Bingham in Seattle. A quick final thought, sir? Well, just keep it simple. I mean, I think that's the thing. Don't -- most of us don't need any more stress in our lives, so if you make your workout sessions stressful you're just going to quit. Go out there, enjoy the journey and learn to have fun with it.

All right, good final advice. We hope you can join us next weekend. as well at 8:30 in the morning Eastern, 5:30 Pacific. Remember, this is the place for the answers to your medical questions. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "CNN Sunday Morning" continues right now.


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