|Little girl in Ajijic|
Other than buying drugs from a cartel, of course, the most dangerous thing you can do in Mexico is drive a car. Not because of the roads, the other drivers, or the possibility of getting involved with an incomprehensible (for immigrants) legal system. Simply because driving a car means you aren’t walking.
Our bodies are made for walking, not riding around in cars. Walking pumps blood and lymph fluids through our systems, strengthens our bones and muscles, and lifts our mood. Our western world has done it’s best to make our legs redundant … cars, trains, buses, airplanes, motorcycles, scooters, golf carts, electric bicycles, Segways, escalators and people movers. When did our legs stop being our people movers?
Bringing a car to Mexico ... or not
Many people, when they move to Mexico, opt to leave their cars behind them and become walkers, others bring their mobility devices (cars) with them. It’s a decision that dramatically affects their choices about where to live and shop. One of the reasons I chose Ajijic was because I wanted a walking lifestyle and this compact village and my apartment near the plaza was perfect for that.
Of course, here where cobblestone streets are the norm, there are walking hazards. I have fallen two or three times, fortunately with nothing worse than skinned hands and knees, and embarrassment as people pull me upright, faces filled with worry about the broken bones of a senior gringa. And, many of my friends have fallen, some with more serious injuries. In San Miguel de Allende, one of the prevailing jokes is about the “fallen women of San Miguel.”
|Boys in Oaxaca|
Two theories about walking
Jokes aside, I have two theories about walking and walkers … neither based on science. First, I believe that walking on cobblestones and the continually changing sidewalk elevations strengthens the micro muscles in our feet and legs and gradually improves balance. It also sharpens our awareness of our bodies and the conditions of the sidewalks and streets. (Avoiding dog feces is a secondary benefit.)
Second, people who walk more than ride, build their strength and balance, and, eventually, fall less.
Also not inconsequential is the report of several of my women friends here on the changes in the appearance of their legs … less cellulite and more defined muscles. They’ve also reported that they feel stronger and have more stamina … even at our mile-high elevation. One of my friends regularly logs 12,000 steps per day … not as exercise but as her regular exploration of the ever-changing sites and events offered in our small village, and the daily errands and visits with friends that make up her routine here.
|Morning in Ajijic|
A challenging decision
At the end of last year, I bought myself a Fitbit and find that I regularly walk about 60,000 steps per week. A challenge came when a friend who moved back to the US offered to sell me her golf cart. I was tempted; I had moved to a new place a bit farther from the central plaza. It would be handy for shopping and it had been fun running around in her cart, plus I now had a parking spot available. Finally, I came to grips with reality: if I bought the cart, I would use it … and walk less.
Finally, I opted for the benefits of walking.
Walking is more than a physical activity, it engages my mind and spirit as I continuously see parades that I didn’t know about, friends out and about, sunlight playing across puddles in the street, and dogs sleeping in doorways. In our almost-perfect weather here, the air is almost always, as they say in Spanish “rico” … fresh, rich and invigorating. Walking takes me away from my beloved computer and into the tangible world of sights and sounds, smells and sensations that make me glad to be alive.
You probably know I’m not a doctor. I don’t even play one on television, but I do know that most people understand that walking is a healthy activity. However, I’m not sure that everyone knows how unhealthy NOT walking can be … not only here in Mexico, but everywhere.
In case you want the science:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Improve your mood
- Improve your balance and coordination
1. It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes.
2. It helps tame a sweet tooth.
3. It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer.
4. It eases joint pain
5. It boosts immune function.
- According to biological anthropologists, the fossil record suggests that when early man traded their nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyles for a more settled one, it resulted in a less dense bone structure
- Prolonged sitting promotes dozens of chronic diseases, including overweight and type 2 diabetes, even if you’re very fit
- At bare minimum, avoid sitting for more than 50 minutes out of every hour. Ideally, limit sitting as much as possible, and incorporate weight-bearing, gravity-driven exercises into your fitness routine