A year ago, I set myself a rule that I would get at least 20 minutes of some sort of exercise each day before I let myself play World of Warcraft. I've basically adhered to this rule. There have been two or three times that I've launched WoW without exercising because I was late for a raid, and a few more days fell under an exception that being sufficiently sick to stay home from work excused me from exercise. There have also been a few times that I decided that I wanted not to exercise so much that I would forego WoW. Even so, I think it is a scant exaggeration that I've gotten my dose of exercise 28 times a month over the past year.
Almost all of my daily exercise is walking outdoors. I had originally planned that I'd mix up my exercise regime much more, but the Gazelle exerciser sleeps in its closet and the exercise DVDs leave me feeling awkward and clumsy. For me, walking predominates, and the lion's share of my walks are on one particular route around the neighborhood that I've timed to be just over 20 minutes.
Even so, the point remains that I've managed to elevate my activity level from 'sedentary' to one solid notch above sedentary, and maintain that for a year. Given the number of times I've tried and failed to elevate my activity level before, I regard this achievement as just short of miraculous. I had no expectation of being able to maintain this habit, and it still strikes me as implausible.
The benefits of these walks have been immediate and pronounced. I've often thought that if I such a profound change was available in pill form, it would be a controlled substance.
- it levels out my mood. It makes me happier when I'm down, and makes me steadier when I'm manic.
- it soothes my body when I'm feeling achy, and wakes me up when I'm feeling tired.
Long-term benefits are less clear. I think these walks have helped my weight stay down a few pounds from where I was when I started trying to lose weight, but not contributed to ongoing weight loss. (But they've helped compensate for my backsliding into old eating habits.)
I'm still a bit paunchy. But my legs look great.
I'm very aware that my body has optimized itself for 20 minutes of walking at a time--I am more able to do other physical activities like running or walking for long times, but not much more able.