Twenty-four years ago, Lora Griffiths struck a deal with herself.
Looking to lose weight at the start of a new year, she told herself she couldn’t go on her annual vacation to the Outer Banks unless she walked the equivalent of the state, from the mountains to the beach, and back by October.
Since that initial pledge, Griffiths has maintained a walking routine, tracking miles daily with a pedometer and journal. At the end of each week, she marks a state map with a Sharpie to represent the virtual trip from Cullowhee, where she grew up, to Frisco, the site of her wedding, where she and her husband visit each October for their anniversary.
“If I can just get away and go walk, it helps with those ‘aha moments’ like in the shower when you’re like, ‘that how I should fix that!’ I have a lot of those while walking,” said Griffiths, a senior grants and contracts administrator who has lost 45 pounds and walked 25,882 miles since 1998.
Walking is a small daily activity that is proven to have numerous benefits for physical and mental health because it lowers the risk of preventable diseases, relieves stress, improves heart health and leads to better sleep. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine shows that adding an extra 10 minutes of activity, such as walking to your day, could prevent as many as 110,000 premature adult deaths annually, if adopted by the population.
Dr. Bill Kraus, a cardiologist at Duke, has devoted his career to understanding the benefits of exercise on cardiometabolic health. As part of the committee of physicians who devised the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines, he recommends adults tally at least 7,000 to 9,000 steps per day in cumulative activity, and many people aim for 10,000 steps a day.
“If you walk up steps rather than taking the elevator, those count,” Kraus said. “If you park your car away from the entrance of a door or building and take some extra steps, those count.”
Most mornings, Adi Molvin walks 25-minutes from the campus parking lot to her office in Duke Clinic. After making the commute from Wake Forest, walking gives her energy and clears her mind for the day.
“It helps me be a little more present for other people,” said Molvin, assistant research practice manager with Duke’s Office of Clinical Research.
Tim Bisantz, fitness program manager for LIVE FOR LIFE, recommends finding opportunities to fit activity into your day to establish a daily exercise routine. He follows “the classroom method,” which gives him a 10-minute break in every hour of work.
“Our bodies are not supposed to be sedentary,” Bisantz said. “Walking increases your quality of life, heart and lung fitness and there are proven studies that it reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. It manages different conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol. It helps ease joint and muscular pain, and even blood sugar levels; it improves your balance. overall, it’s just a good quality of life activity.”
Chuck Roberson, customer service manager for Parking & Transportation Services at Duke, has built more activity into his day.
During the pandemic, he gained 65 pounds but started daily walks during lunch late last year on campus to lose weight and feel better. He got the idea after listening to an episode of The Mindset Mentor Podcast, which issued a 100-day challenge to add or takeaway a daily task that would make a difference in your life. Adding in a walk every day was something he knew he could do.
“That’s something that I can handle every single day at work,” said Roberson, who last lost 40 pounds. “Even if it’s raining, I can walk in the garage.”