I am 24 years old and discouraged by all that has happened in 2020 with the pandemic and its consequences. My family’s physical and mental health have deteriorated, including weight gain and no regular exercise because gyms were closed. Now financial challenges are such that we can’t afford gym fees. I worry about my parents, who have family histories of cancer and heart disease. What physical activity do you recommend?
March 2020 saw the declaration of the pandemic and all that followed—illness, death, lockdowns, economic collapse, job losses, and school closures. During this time we witnessed an increase in the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, as well as increased domestic violence, pornography, and other addictions. Apart from SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) deaths, preventable deaths increased significantly because many patients with heart disease, stroke, and other infectious diseases were too frightened to seek help at hospitals for fear of contracting COVID-19.
We have some good news despite the problems of the past months. We recommend walking—no gym fees involved! Ongoing research yields robust evidence that many health outcomes are improved by walking 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day. There is a clear and significant decrease in mortality, specifically for cancer and heart disease, the two conditions you mention. The benefit tops out between 10,000 and 12,000 steps per day, but improves steeply as one gets up to and beyond 8,000 steps daily.¹ This form of exercise seems to work for all social groups and improves many health conditions, including the prevention and control of type 2 diabetes, maintaining weight loss, and delaying/preventing dementia onset.
Many years ago our gracious heavenly Father shared a grace-filled, uncomplicated health message through the writings of Ellen White. She wrote: “Walking, in all cases where it is possible, is the best remedy for diseased bodies, because in this exercise all of the organs of the body are brought into use. . . . There is no exercise that can take the place of walking. By it the circulation of the blood is greatly improved.”² Science continues to confirm this good advice. God’s Word encourages us: “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful” (2 Chron. 20:20, NIV).
As we step into this new year, with its unknown and uncharted times ahead, we urge you to make the decision to walk daily for your health, and take your family members with you. You will all enjoy better health; walking together encourages better compliance and accountability, with fewer excuses to skip exercise. It can also be much more fun, and a little healthy competition may encourage our best efforts.
Enjoy being outside whenever possible, but wherever you exercise—in a mall or climbing up and down stairs or on a treadmill—remember, you are never alone. God has promised never to leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).
¹ P. F. Saint-Maurice, R. P. Troiano, D. R. Bassett, et al., “Association of Daily Step Count and Step Intensity With Mortality Among U.S, Adults,” Journal of the American Medical Association 323, no. 12 (2020): pp. 1151-1160, doi:10.1001/jama.2020.1382. ² Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 3, p. 78.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.
Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.