How Walking Helped Me Overcome Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or ME)
So yesterday I needed to buy a frame for an upcoming art exhibition next week. It was a beautiful, early autumn morning - still sunny but with a hint of colder days to come. The framing shop is in the town I live in - maybe a 20 minute walk away. There's a steep hill too, with a fine view of the gleaming towers of Canary Wharf- the financial district of London.
I opened the door of the car. All the while my 'little voice' was saying, 'Walk Anthony - the exercise will do you good,' while I tried to argue that I was in a rush and needed to get there and back quickly.
I did walk in the end. I disciplined myself (how I hate that word!) despite the initial complaining of my body and ended up enjoying a lovely, bracing walk and feeling much better for it when I got home, frame under my arm.
But why, on such a lovely day, did I want to take the car? Simply, because a part of me is lazy and would rather chose the easy, comfortable route to the harder but ultimately more beneficial path. Maybe you're a little like me?
In 2012 I became ill with what was later diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS for short. It lasted for 5 years and was a horrible, debilitating sickness. At times I struggled to climb one flight of stairs and would have to sit down and rest at the top. After a night's sleep I'd be as exhausted as I would be after a sleepless night. My mind would go fuzzy - I couldn't complete sentences or concentrate whilst my whole body was aching constantly as if I'd just run a marathon. For someone who was up to then a non-smoking, healthy, 49 year old healthy man that's a big deal.
One of the things that helped me in my recovery was exercise. After I was referred to the CFS Unit at King's College Hospital, London, the doctor I was working with prescribed me a course of, not medication, but walking - what was to become a regular walking routine. I think at first it was only 10 minutes, three times a week but gradually the length of time was extended to 20 then 30 minutes with a weekly hourly slot added. Now, as a teenager I'd loved walking: after all I did live on the edge of a national park - the North Yorkshire Moors with the beautiful North-East coastline as it's eastern border. However, London was a different matter - tarmac, paving slabs and concrete don't compare favourably with miles of wind-swept heather, sandy beaches and stunning cliffs. But I had to make a go of it if I wanted to get better. So I started trying to see what I hadn't seen before - the flowers, the blossom, the street art, the architecture - in order to make my walks more interesting. I realised that this is important - there is beauty everywhere, even in cities - sometimes we just need to take the time to look for it. I also varied my route to provide some variety. Try it - you'll be surprised. Plus, London is quite a green city after all, with numerous parks and commons. I remember walking up a gentle incline in West Norwood Cemetery, South London, my legs screaming with the effort. But gradually, with my 3 times weekly walks I became stronger until the day I was discharged from the unit.
The benefits of walking (outdoors, as opposed to a gym) are amazing. Our local Decathlon (sports store) had a fascinating display on this recently. Here are a few:
- provides daily dose of vitamin D (regardless of weather) which boosts cardio-vascular system and strengthens your bones
- releases serotonin, the feel-good hormone
- releases endorphins, the pleasure hormone
- destresses the body and mind
- oxygenates the body and brain which leads to a sharper thought processes
- tones up thigh and bum!
For more interesting facts go to:
The results of not walking are painfully obvious in our 21st century society : obesity and being overweight in England cost the NHS £6.1 billion in 2017, and that's not to mention the effect on personal discomfort, mental health and just feeling tired out and miserable.
Finally, for my Christian friends, a challenge. A few years back, there was a popular wristband with the initials WWJD - What Would Jesus Do? The answer in this case is, 'Well, he'd walk!' Yes of course he lived 2000 years ago and most people did in those days but his is a good example to follow: Jesus walked everywhere. OK, maybe we're not up to walking on water or in the air just yet but we've got to start somewhere!
So, now that we all know walking is, quite simply, good for you, why don't we, if you don't already, commit yourself to a routine for say, six weeks. Put it on your calendar or in your diary and commit to it. Be good to yourself: you deserve it. It might be hard to begin with but after six weeks you'll see the diference. And let me know how you got on!
P.S. Do feel free to share this post with anyone you feel may benefit from it. That is, after all, the hope of Abundare - that we might all live life more abundantly.