According to urban legend, 1960s astronauts faced a problem: their ballpoint pens wouldn't write in zero gravity. As the story goes, the U.S. government met the challenge head-on.
They convened panels. They wrote reports. They commissioned the nation's top scientists at the top universities. And they spent millions of dollars, ultimately leading to the invention of the Fisher Space Pen (named after its inventor, Paul Fisher), which cleverly used pressurized ink cartridges to overcome zero gravity...
... When confronted with the same problem, wraps the legend, the Soviets used pencils.
This parable is untrue on two counts. First, pencils didn't really work well in space because the lead would break and float around the cabin. Second, the U.S. government didn't convene any studies or pay any extraordinary amount of money. Paul Fisher was an industrialist who invented the pen himself and sold it to both the U.S. and Soviets.
Nonetheless, I like to pretend that the parable is true because its moral surely is: Complex problems often have simple solutions.
This is how I feel when I read the paper every day. The headlines portend a variety of very complex problems: rising healthcare costs, economic doldrums, global warming. How great would it be if we had a pencil to solve all of this?
Well, we do. And, like the pencil (and the actual Fisher Pen), it's not something that requires government tests and commissions. It's something that almost anyone can do. It's called walking.
By walking just 30 minutes a day, a person can dramatically reduce their risk of almost every health problem: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer -- even depression and Alzheimer's.
In doing so, we can also slash the $147 billion our nation spends each year in healthcare costs associated with physical inactivity. This reduces the overall demand on our healthcare system and thereby reduces healthcare costs for everyone.
Moreover, by incorporating walking into our daily activities, we can also help solve our environmental and economic problems. Everyone knows that walking to work reduces our carbon footprint. But it also makes us more likely to notice (and support) the mom-and-pop shops in our communities.
This is why the U.S. Surgeon General is preparing a national Call to Action on Walking. And this is why the Every Body Walk collaborative is galvanizing a national walking movement.
Back in February, I joined my friend Tyler Norris from Kaiser Permanente and the Every Body Walk collaborative to celebrate National Heart Month with helpful tips on how to incorporate walking into your daily life.
Well, now I'd like to celebrate springtime with a few more:
1. Go (and sometimes stop) to smell the roses! Flowers are blooming all over the place. Get outside and enjoy the neighborhood nature that you can't appreciate while trapped inside a car. If you don't live in a neighborhood with any flowers, try a little guerilla gardening to spruce things up a bit.
2. Go for an after-dinner walk with your family or significant other. It's springtime! Love is in the air. Hold hands and enjoy it. DVR whatever show you were going to watch, and tune in later--zooming through the commercials!
3. Even better than television, walk to your local park and watch one of the Little League games. It's a lovely (and free) way to spend a spring evening. And it's a great way to get to know people in your community.
4. Join a charity walk in your community! But don't just do it on one day. Do it every day by downloading Charity Miles to your iPhone or Android and earning 25¢ per mile for charity whenever you walk, run or bike anywhere. You can support great charities like Autism Speaks, Feeding America, Stand Up To Cancer, Wounded Warrior Project, ASPCA and The Michael J. Fox Foundation. Every mile you walk helps these charities have a real impact. (For example, every mile for Feeding America feeds two people!) And if you get a friend to join you, you double that impact!
For a society at rest, these things might seem like significant life adjustments. But, now is the time to wake from our slumber. We're all facing some serious challenges--both personally and collectively. But it turns out that our solution can be as simple (and fun!) as just getting outside and walking.
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