“The doctor’s news is not good.  Americans are in poorer health and are dying sooner than the rest of the industrialized world.  Call it the ‘mortality gap’.  The facts are disquieting.  A 2011 study of 17 industrialized countries – 13 in western Europe, plus the US, Australia, Japan and Canada – found that American men, whose life expectancy is 75.6 years, ranked last, and US women, at 80.7 years, ranked 16th.  Worse, this gap has been widening for the past three decades” (“Facing the mortality gap,” AARP Bulletin, March 2013).

The study found that this was the case in all socio-economic groupings.

What’s the problem?

“Although the United States spends nearly twice as much on health care as other countries, Americans eat too much, rely on cars too much and get medical care that is often inaccessible and unaffordable….while Americans drink and smoke less than their peers, they eat more  calories per person, use seat belts less, are more prone to gun violence and have higher rates of drug abuse.”

Thanks to AARP for pointing all this out!

Everybody has to decide what they can do to improve their own situation, to increase their own life expectancy.  But there are two things we can all do – we can eat less and use the car less.  I’ve been trying to do both.  You can save money, too.

We are fortunate in that many stores are within a mile and a half from our house, so I can walk to them all.  I do this with our 16-month-old grandson, who just loves going out with Grandpa.  His stroller has room underneath for a just a few grocery items, so I have to limit purchases.  There’s only room for the essentials, which saves money and improves health right there.  It’s also impossible to buy ice cream as it will melt before I get home.

Aubren weighs about 27 pounds, so pushing him (and groceries after shopping), adds to the exercise value of the walk itself.  He will not let me slow down, so I keep up a fairly vigorous pace.

This also saves me gas.

If you don’t live near a store or don’t have a grandchild to take with you, you could get the same effect by driving to a central point, parking the car and then walking to other stores from there.  The fact that you can only carry so much is also good – it cuts down on how much you spend and encourages you to go out and walk more often!  You might also consider cycling to stores, using a backpack for purchases.  Again, it will limit purchases, save money on gas and give you exercise.

As you feel the benefit of walking with the resultant weight loss, you will be less inclined to eat too much.  Yesterday, I decided to join our two local granddaughters at their school for lunch.  I asked their Dad what I could take other than fast food, which is quite expensive.  He suggested M&M’s, so I stopped at a dollar store to get some.  While there, I looked for something I could eat while they ate their school lunch.  The only healthy item they had in the store was a small packet of dried fruit, which I bought for a dollar.  That was my lunch.

Until recently, I would have been inclined to stop at McDonald’s and buy the girls chicken nuggets and fries, and a burger for myself!  That’s about $10.  I spent a quarter of that at the $ Store.  Not being able to go through a drive-thru also helps cut down on those calories.

There are many things each of us can do to eat less and walk more.  One of the biggest differences between the US and England, where I grew up, is that we walked everywhere, whereas most Americans seem to walk nowhere.

I remember listening to Alastair Cooke, the famed British broadcaster and late presenter of “Masterpiece Theatre.”  He was talking about when he first came to America, back in 1929.  He was invited over to an apartment for a social evening.  After dinner, he stood up and asked the others to go for an evening walk, which had been his family’s habit in England.  The reaction was amusing, with others at the dinner party offering to call him a cab or wondering if he was unwell and needed some air, or maybe needed to go to the store to buy some cigarettes.  Concern was also expressed that if he went for a walk, the police might arrest him for suspicious behavior.

But the idea of walking was totally alien to them all.

I’m pleased to say that has changed.  I do see people walking.  In some cases, this is to save gas.  But it’s catching on.  It’s now socially acceptable to walk.  More and more people are doing it.

Who knows?  If we all walk more and eat less, maybe we will come out on top the next time a comparison is made of life expectancy in western countries.  When we spend more than twice as much on healthcare as any other western nation, we really ought to come out on top every time!


7 thoughts on “BELOW THE LINE . . .”

  1. We get our exercise in a number of ways. A lawn needs mowing weekly with a walk behind. Grandparents take 4 year old energized, demolotion derby Brooklyn to gymnastics every monday and drive her home in the afternoon. Every week at least twice, I take Oliver over to 7 lakes recreation area and walk the trails or in Fenton parks. Also he gets an AM walk and a PM walk maybe 6 miles total. In the autumn after the feast I attempt deer hunting as a way to get lost. A compas is a must. Every Tuesday evening I go to Adopt-a-pet and walk dogs. At least once a week I do 40-72 lengths at the Fention Highschool pool. Michigan winters normally mean snow needs to be removed from drive way with my simplicity 30 inch wide 2 stage snowblower/self propelled powered by a 10 horse power Briggs engine retrofited swapped/ a roto tiller. There is also exercise to grow more natural food than mystery meat served @ McDonnalds. We do our grocery shopping @ Aldis and the Menonite bulk food store in Marlette, Michigan. Much much cheaper too! Burgandy with known health benefits is always cheaper @ Walmart. Nearly all food including produce and meat @ our local grocery store is GMO, full pestacides,sugar and additives that are unhealthy. Never had time to exercise before retirement in 2008 because of those 40-60 hour work weeks for 34 years mostly flying and driving to all 50 states, Europe, China, Japan, South America all the while not inclined to exercise or eat regularly.

    1. i switched to vegetables (steamed with some parmesan cheese sprinkled on top) for one meal a deal (lunch) and eliminated or cut way back on carbs (breads) and after three months found I had shed 20 lbs.

  2. When our son and daughter-in-law went to Cincinnati to study, walking was difficult, not because of the distance, but because there were no sidewalks! Is that changing?

    1. It’s improving, at least in some areas. It certainly is better in parts of Lansing, where we live. Also, after pressure from national cycling groups, sidewalks have been added on busy roads so that cyclists can ride their bikes more safely. It is still not a “walking culture”, though. On my long walks with our grandson, there is absolutely no place to sit for a breather.

  3. My mother, born in 1919, was an avid walker all her life. She hated driving and riding with others made her nervous. In the 60s, while I was growing up, I was amazed that it seemed everyone in town “knew” my mother as the little lady (she was only 4 ft. 9 in. tall) who walked everywhere. She met a lot of people that way.

  4. A simple equation: energy in energy out. Our bodies don’t waste fuel but store it. So “go green” and don’t waste resources :>)


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