Stickman Readers' Submissions September 16th, 2010

Walking Is The Best Medicine

." — Hippocrates

So often we hear how difficult it is to keep in shape in LOS and of expats old before their time. Let us discuss a practical and most important topic for those of us aging Stickies, that being the matter of general fitness. Allow me to relate my personal experience and offer some information to ponder. I am not a fitness nut. I don’t push myself hard. I’m just an average 49-year old guy who found an enjoyable routine that genuinely works for me and provides very really fitness benefits.

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Three years ago I was 46 years old and recently single. I had been sedentary and weighed about 12 pounds more. I had a resting pulse rate of about 74 beats per minute. On a few occasions I accidently tripped while walking with a lady I was dating and embarrassed the hell out of myself. It was as if my coordination had diminished. I would easily become winded just doing some minor chores around the yard. Something was not right. I could not deny the obvious any more. I was grossly out of shape. It was sad just how out of shape. In my youth I often ran 3 or 4 miles several times a week just for fun. Back then I was in outstanding cardiovascular health.

In an effort to correct the situation I attempted to take up jogging again as in the days of old, but many things had changed. My strength to weight ratio was not what it once was and I was not so spry. Starting a jogging routine proved to be too unpleasant and difficult. I found it was now far easier to pull a muscle and it took much longer to heal compared to my youth. I hated every bit of it. I needed to stop pushing myself for quick results and to gracefully accept the changes of age. I needed to come up with something that I would actually enjoy doing long term; something that would not be drudgery. What to do?

You may be familiar with Mr. Hippocrates (circa 460 BC – 370 BC). This old Greek is credited with being the father of western medicine. When a person graduates medical school to become a doctor they take the “Hippocratic Oath” which is named after Hippocrates. About 2400 years ago Hippocrates told his students walking is the best medicine!”

Acting on the wise Greek’s advice, I took up walking and found it to be a wonderful path to real fitness that is very under rated. Many people tend think walking lacks the physical intensity to provide any real benefit….absolute nonsense!

In fact, the evidence continues to mount that walking three times per week (not running or weight lifting) may be the most health conscious thing you can do for your body…….

…… with just 30 minutes three times a week required to yield health results……

For although walking consumes about the same amount of energy per mile as running, it takes longer to walk a mile than to run one. Runners, therefore, can spend less time exercising to burn an equivalent number of calories. For example 20-30 minutes of running is equivalent to 40-50 minutes of walking. Runners run a significantly higher risk of injury.


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Lower Sukhumvit road offers two diverse walking experiences.

If you’re just starting out, may I suggest for the first month or two you pick a route with good quality sidewalks that are wide without the ubiquitous pot holes. On me last visit to Bangkok my primary morning walking routine was to head west on Sukhumvit down to the lower sois. Once under the expressway over pass and past the street food vendors, I went down to the intersection of Wireless Road where I was greeted by the red shirt fortress at Rama I Road. I would take a left turn heading south on Wireless Road. The good quality sidewalks and relatively lower pedestrian traffic made for an easier experience where I could walk faster with longer strides if I wished. I would walk past the Japanese Embassy and Lumphini Park and turned around when I reached the other red-shirt fortress at Rama IV Road.

Walking the opposite direction on Sukhumvit Road from the lower sois to the higher ones obviously offers a very different walking experience and offers different potential benefits. The first walking route I mentioned is great for beginners seeking a low hassle stroll to improve their initial fitness, but north side of Sukhumvit Road east bound provides a fine obstacle course with which one can improve balance, coordination and brain connectivity. My second walking routine was to cross Sukhumvit Road at the Nana police box to get to the north side of the street and turn right heading east bound past the ever friendly freelancers leaning on the lamp posts, passing the sidewalk beer bar on the corner of Soi 5 (good place to stop on the way back), shimmy past the street vendors' tables, past the skytrain steps and beyond for the desired period of time. You won’t be able to walk as fast or with the same intensity, but you will use your peripheral vision to find safe spots to place your feet on the uneven pavement, develop more balance and coordination weaving in and out of the crowd, greater dexterity leaping over the perennial openings in the pavement and dodging the soi dogs. It’s good to alternate the two types of walking tracks as they both provide different benefits. I’m not making this stuff up!

Researchers have discovered that moderate exercise, such as

walking for 40 minutes three times a week, can enhance cognitive skills.

Specifically, the exercise can improve the connectivity of important brain circuits, mitigate declines in brain function associated with aging and improve performance on cognitive tasks.


I love walking because it is NOT exercise to me. Instead, it is a form of meditation. It’s me time. Some people are power walkers who push themselves. Not me. I walk at my own comfortable pace and still reap the real benefits. I do it more for relaxation and enjoyment than for exercise. Walking is shown to improve your mood and act as an antidepressant. So before you do a header from your balcony in Pattaya consider the following.

“A recent discovery has been that exercise also increases serotonin levels, and so acts as a more natural antidepressant. But physical activity could be even more potent than antidepressants because it has a dual action, by further more increasing the sensitivity of nerve “If everyone were to walk briskly, 30 minutes a day, we could cut the incidence of many chronic diseases 30 – 40%.”
(Dr Joanne Mason, Chief of Preventable Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard University)

“Aerobically active individuals have been shown to have a better interplay between their activating, stress response, sympathetic nervous system and their relaxing, restorative, parasympathetic nervous system. This suggests that fit individuals may be less psychologically reactive in stressful situations.”
(JC Quick and JD Quick)


Determining your current level of fitness

The simplest way to determine your current fitness level is to check your resting pulse rate (RPR). It measures how efficiently your heart and lungs are working (i.e. cardiovascular fitness). Do not drink caffeine or alcohol prior to checking your RPR as they will increase your RPR. It’s good to take your RPR first thing in the morning when lying in bed.

Normal resting heart rates can range anywhere from 40 to 100 beats per minute. As can be seen on this chart, your resting heart rate can vary with your fitness level, and with age. The fitter you are, the lower the resting heart rate. In fact, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study, men with an abnormally high resting heart rate of more than 75 beats per minute are three times more likely to die of a heart attack.






























Above Average














Below Average














Walking pace and calories burned

I enjoy myself when I walk. I don’t push myself hard at all. I’m not out to prove anything or impress anyone. My comfortable walking pace is 22 minutes per mile or 3 miles in 66 minutes. You probably walk faster. Based on my weight and pace I burn about 322 calories (3 light beers) per hour. Use the calculator at this web link to calculate your own. http://www.everydayhealth.comcalories-burned-walking.htm

There are small dangers to walking. I’ve been in some narrow situations in my life, but crossing a Bangkok street is one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever done due to those two wheeled terrorist they call motorcycle taxis. Wear a bright colored shirt to increase your visibility. Day glow orange is my favorite. The more visible you are the less likely you are to get run over. Wear a brimmed hat to keep the sun off you. I go so far as to tuck a piece of T-shirt under my hat to covers ears and the back of my neck since I’m concerned about skin cancer. It looks ridiculous, but I’m not out to make a fashion statement. Get yourself a good pair of walking or running shoes that are just a bit big on you. Your feet swell when you exercise and wearing two pairs of socks does a great job of preventing blisters. I find I need use the arch support insoles you get at the drug store for my shoes. It is true the air quality in Bangkok is poor, but it is no worse than the smoky bar you sat in last night and the poor air quality there did not stop you from that activity.

Since I started my walking routine I have seen real benefits. My resting pulse rate was 74. Now it's 57 (a runner’s pulse!). I am 12 pounds lighter and I believe my balance is significantly improved. I feel more spry. I no longer get winded going up steps or doing chores.

The hot season and rainy season are over. You’re now coming into some decent weather in LOS. Start off easy, be gentle with yourself and most importantly ENJOY your walk.

Live long and prosper Khun Farang ka.


Stickman's thoughts:

For sure, the benefits of making walking part of your routine are huge!

Walking around Lumpini Park is good. There's a clear marked track that is 2.5 km.

Walking up and down Sukhumvit might be ok east of Emporium but from sois 33 up to soi 1, I think one is optimistic. There are heaps of vendors, busy streets to cross etc and slowing down won't help you to keep your heart rate up as you exercise. East of Emporium, all the way down to Onnut, is much better I reckon!

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