This common fitness tip is a bad idea
January 1, 2019
I used to have a fitness class instructor who liked to say about workouts, “Once you turn 40, it’s all rehab.” It brought chuckles, but it’s true that over the years we will inevitably subject our bodies to wear and tear. Various mishaps lead to injuries, some minor, some worse, some that will scar and haunt us forever. Our stories of how we’ve acquired these hurts may be humorous or downright horrific. I have my share of colorful tales – a spinal injury on the beach in Hawaii; a leg-crushing snowmachine wreck on the Yentna River. But I’m afraid the accident and injury that’s caused the worst, lingering impact on my life is not very interesting. I fell on the ice in a fast food restaurant parking lot.
It’s been well-documented that falls are a serious health hazard. Just this month, the State of Alaska Div. of Public Health reported that falls are the number one cause of serious injury requiring medical care among Alaskans age 55 and older, and a leading cause of death and loss of independence.
Which is one of the reasons I cringe and shake my head whenever I hear or read this common health and fitness “tip”:
Instead of parking close to a building, park far away and walk for the extra exercise.
No, no, no. Don’t do that!
It may be good advice if you live in sunny Phoenix or Southern California. But in Alaska, parking lots are a horrible choice for walking exercise. Especially in cities, where car exhaust intensifies the freeze-thaw cycle that’s turned our towns into sheets of ice the past few winters. Parking lots are treacherous. In addition to the ice, they are dark. Even with street lights motorists will have a hard time seeing you when they back up. Pedestrians must contend with everything from car fumes to berms to other people on foot who are staring at their phones and not watching where they are going.
I’d like to offer this health tip instead: Park as close as you can to the entrance. Use that disabled parking spot if you’re eligible. And if you want the extra exercise, walk a few laps once you get inside the store.
David Washburn is the Senior Voice editor.