An Amazing New Prescription Medication

footprintsAt a dinner conversation tonight, the topic turned to health and fitness.

The ladies in the group were discussing their various Crossfit successes, while we men congratulated ourselves on improvements caused by switching to lower-carbohydrate diets and better weight training principles. The discussion broadened to the health plight of the Modern Human in general, and how the populations of rich countries are getting heavier and less healthy, even as the world makes progress toward lifting many of the poorest countries out of malnutrition due to poverty.

We wondered why with all the wealth and free information available out there, that most rich-country residents end up doing exactly what is worst for them: eating and drinking concentrated sugar, and remaining in a seated position for most of their waking hours.  And we marveled at some recent conversations we had had with off-duty nurses and doctors, who reported that the medical industry is still focused on medicines and “cures” for symptoms, rather than lifestyle changes that could eliminate the underlying causes of disease much more thoroughly.

As Mr. Money Mustache, you already know I have such an uncompromising stance on things that it is impractical to come to me with complaints. If you have an ache or pain or any other problem, and you’re not already a ripped, active, vegetable-chomping weight-lifting bicycle-sprinting dynamo with no major substance abuse habits, I’ll tell you to start by fixing those glaring health oversights first, then see if any problems remain that need real medical attention. Since most people (including me) don’t fully live up to this standard, there is always something to work on, and thus always hope and optimism that you can fix your own ailments.

But if you don’t believe me, you might want to just start with a simpler prescription, like this one from a well-spoken doctor named Mike Evans:

In this cute little sketchy-marker whiteboard video, he explains the power of a prescription “medicine” that outperforms anything else that has ever been invented. It cuts knee arthritis symptoms by 47%, reduces dementia and Alzheimer’s in older patients by 50%, Diabetes by 58%, Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue in people of all ages, improves longevity and even Sexiness.. just about anything that ails you.

If we could all get our hands on it, our lives would be transformed for the better. And yet it is a medicine entirely in reach for most people. And it’s completely appropriate for Anti Automobile April, because the medicine also functions as a form of transportation.

It is, of course, none other than good, old-fashioned walking. But until you idolize it properly with statistics and warm thoughts like this, most people don’t give much thought to the wonderful activity.

I’ve always been a bit of a walking enthusiast – as a kid I would go for walks far outside of the town’s borders, exploring the riverbanks or walking over the big bypass bridge where nobody else tended to go without their cars. In high school, walking cured the blues of turbulent teen romances as well as getting me to and from my evening shifts at the convenience store on warm summer nights. I still go for long solo walks almost every day as a way to empty the brain and fill up the lungs with better air. In the daytime I walk along the neighborhood streets and creekside paths, but at night when the golf course is closed, I’ll stroll across the fancy greens and admire the wide-open spaces, getting a good look at the black sky and the thousands of stars of Outer Space. Even though I’ll ride a bike whenever I need to be somewhere in a hurry, there is something you get from walking that you can’t get any other way. So if you’ve still got your legs, this is the way to say Thanks*.

Your assignment for today is to walk just a bit more than you normally would, and to think about it and appreciate it just a bit more. Isn’t it amazing how easily that collection of muscles and bones gets you around, just reading your mind and taking you wherever you want to go? How marvelous that you can do it with no license, no traffic laws, and no permission from anyone else. You can go up over the curb, step carefully through the garden, and walk right up to the door. You can stop wherever you like, and even run or fly for brief periods to cross puddles or gaps between the rooftops of highrise buildings.

A notable Mustachian named Ken Ilgunas recently walked from Northern Alberta,  through the entire United States, and ended up at the Gulf of Mexico. 1700 miles, entirely on his own feet, carrying his entire home on his back, one step at a time. If he can do that, then we can definitely crank out at least a mile or two of our own every day, right?

I hope you enjoy your dosage as much as I enjoy mine.

*And even if you don’t have working legs these days, it is still a fine thing to roll outside by any open-air conveyance available.

  • Jenn April 11, 2013, 2:54 pm

    Your last two posts have been spectacular. I go from laughing my ass off to shaking my head in astonishment at the insanity of our culture. Thanks for sharing the voice of reason!

  • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow April 11, 2013, 3:03 pm

    Re: Bruce Trail

    The Bruce Trail, oh the memories, did that twice, once witha friend and once with a group. The second one we tried to do the whole thing 25 miles, if memory serves me correct (brain is getting fuzzy with age) we made it 3/4 of the way before calling it quits, the group leader ran ahead to collect the vehicles and somehow got lost. We ended sitting on a rock beach for like 4 or 5 hours:)

    Today I don’t think my knees could do it :(

  • Nerode April 11, 2013, 3:17 pm

    “Solvitur Ambulando”*, as some of the ancients had it.

    It’s the phrase I always use to justify leaving my desk and taking a walk outside. Solutions to knotty problems often come more easily or quickly when walking, compared to sitting in front of my computer screen. And if they don’t, well, I’m in a better mood when I return than if I’d spent the time failing to solve the problem at my desk!

    * “It is solved by walking”.

  • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow April 11, 2013, 3:28 pm

    MMM since you are doing a health theme this month than I highly highly suggust reading Salt Sugar Fat by Micheal Moss, it will be a real eye opener into the obesity crisis, more so on why addiction to bad food is sooooo hard to beat.

    More importwntly it will give you a good understand of how and why companies want you addicted to salt fat and sugar

    Excellent book

  • John@MoneyPrinciple April 11, 2013, 3:59 pm

    Undoubtedly walking is good for you – in fact probably as good as running for the same time.

    But I think your assertion that “the world makes progress toward lifting many of the poorest countries out of malnutrition due to poverty” meeds a challenge. One of the effects of the global near-meltdown has been to turn the clock back in this area. So the poor are getting poorer, kids are sufffering and this is not only in developing countries but perhaps more acutely in developed countries where the government has taken – or had to take – excessive ‘austerity’ measures.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 11, 2013, 4:28 pm

      I hear you John – I was speaking of a longer time period than just the time since the crises in the US and Euro financial systems.

      What do you think of the statistics in the latest Gates Foundation report? (don’t worry, it’s not dry at all and fun to read/watch) http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/#nav=intro

  • jet April 11, 2013, 8:06 pm

    I walk the dogs every night. It’s one of the many advantages to having them, they ensure that I get off the couch and take them, and because they are big dogs I can go out at any hour and not worry about dodgy people who may lurk around the neighbourhood.

    I could always walk more, because I sit on my butt at a desk all day.

  • Frederic Patel April 11, 2013, 10:26 pm

    Since moving to New York City, my daily commute now entails a one-way 35 minute walk to work. I love it. I’m no longer dragging my feet on the 15th hole on my weekend golf rounds. As others have mentioned, I do find it amusing that some find this ridiculous and I should take a cab or subway.

  • David Horne April 11, 2013, 11:12 pm

    I was confused for a moment when I read the title of this post. I was all, “That doesn’t sound like Mr. MMM. What happened? Hacked account.” Of course it all makes sense now. It’s really amazing what a little physical activity can do. I do work at a desk most of the day, but I’m grateful that I have tasks that take me away from it and two legs to take me places I need to go.

  • bayrider April 11, 2013, 11:46 pm

    Get a dog, better yet get two large dogs. Walk every day with dogs or else ride bike with dogs or skateboard with dogs pulling. Life is good:)

    Peace, Love, Dogs,

  • Matt F April 12, 2013, 6:39 am

    Glad you keep bring up fitness on the blog. It would be much tougher to retire early without a control on your health. So many people I know are stuck working because they feel they need the insurance to pay for their expensive blood pressure meds, diabetes meds, etc. Plus, I want to retire early (pushing up the front end of the schedule) so I can enjoy a long retirement, so it makes sense to me that I would want to live as long as possible (pushing out the backend of the schedule) for the maximum retirement period. Finally, that retirement would sure be a whole lot more fun if I am physically mobile and energetic.

  • AJ April 12, 2013, 6:58 am

    I’m probably more active than most: I cycle part of my commute each day and walk regularly. Our household doesn’t have a car so we inevitably move more than most.

    This article and video still surprised me, so after work yesterday I walked the first two tube stops on my commute home and boarded there instead!

    Walking is good for the soul.

  • Mario April 12, 2013, 7:35 am

    “We wondered why with all the wealth and free information available out there, that most rich-country residents end up doing exactly what is worst for them.”

    The reason is that inter-generational learning has taught us that any time there’s a chance to eat something — especially calorie-dense, fatty or sugary foods — you take it, because you don’t know the next time you’re going to have a chance to eat.

    I’ve found this to be particularly true for people in countries that are newly rich (Think recent oil discoveries or rapid development).

  • GoCubsGo April 12, 2013, 8:18 am

    The local MLS added a “Walk Score” to every real estate listing and a few of my clients have used that as a main criteria. Unfortunately, my clients moving from city neighborhoods in Chicago complain about the lack of walkability in the suburbs. I used to agree, but the more I think about it (and read this blog), the distances might be longer but still aren’t bad at all. I downloaded a pedometer app when in Disneyworld last week and my family and I were averaged 7.5 miles a day walking around the parks. My kids didn’t complain at all. It’s all about mindset.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 12, 2013, 8:49 am

      Yes! And equally important – BIKES are an amazing cure for the larger scale of modern suburbs, since they are about 5 times faster than walking. The abundance of sidewalks, wide roads, parking lots and other flat concrete makes for very comfortable biking.

      Walking is great for mental relaxation and getting there slowly, but it is incredibly slow compared to biking and driving. Since most US adults have forgotten that bikes exist, they naturally turn to cars. Hell, even I would drive if the choice was a 90-minute roundtrip walk to the grocery store and a short drive. But bikes eliminate the need to make that choice, since I can bike there in 9 minutes, slightly faster than I can drive there in daylight hours when traffic is usually high.

    • Emmers April 28, 2013, 8:31 pm

      Walk scores are great! It’s a really useful way to evaluate/rank housing.

  • KB April 12, 2013, 8:50 am

    I love the post and the video. Very eye opening! It is so great that your blog is not about deprivation but instead the messages are always so positive and really about living a great full life!

  • Patrick April 12, 2013, 12:11 pm

    Health and Financial Independence go hand-in-hand.

    Have you read Dr. Furhman’s Eat to Live? It’s awesome.

    Just want to say thanks for the blog, MMM. By June, my family will be car-free after maintaining 3 of these horrible machines for many years. Can’t wait.

  • Freeyourchains April 12, 2013, 1:18 pm

    A great example of “cures” of symptoms and doctors milking all the money they can.

    Patient: “Doctor, my tonsils are hyper-inflated and i keep getting colds every other week. Do you know why?”
    Doctor: ” let’s wait and see how you are in 3 months.”
    3 months later,

    “Doctor, i couldn’t workout, because i couldn’t sleep well, because my tonsils are hyper-inflated and i can’t get enough oxygen when i sleep, plus my immunity is going down. Now i have gained 30 pounds in 3 months, and that is causing me to snore at night now even worse and only absorb 85% of oxygen when i sleep to recover at night.”

    Doctor: I will send you to a specialist

    Specialist: ” I like to get to know my patients first before taking out their tonsils for any reason. Come back to me when you get a cold again, though you still have hyper-inflated tonsils. Plus i would like to administer a $700/night sleep apnea test to see your snoring and oxygen levels, and possibly use this to get your tonsils removed.”

    Specialist 3 weeks later: “I see you snored, and probably due to your hyper-inflated tonsils and colds every other 2 weeks. I can’t remove your tonsils without a medical reason (you getting fatter by the hyper-inflated tonsils is not reason enough). Plus you will have to take another sleep apena test, because your insurance says so if it is to have a surgery afterwards.”

    Point, be skeptical to a run around with healthcare. Solution: Rental apartment was causing the hyper-inflation reaction to the tonsils. Moved. Tonsils are back to normal, and working out again and losing weight gained from hyper-inflated tonsils. Sleep apnea tests were never really needed.

  • Doug April 12, 2013, 2:47 pm

    What we have here is a fine example of the Ockham’s Razor principle, meaning that the simplest solution to a problem is often the most effective. For shorter distances I will often walk or use the bike. For longer distances I’ll drive, but then park in one central place and walk to many of the stops I have to make in the area. It’s my observation not many people do this, as the sidewalks are largely empty.

  • brian April 12, 2013, 3:25 pm

    When I first got a bike, I used it to ride to the gym in the morning before work. But I found that I actually missed the 15 minute walk in the brisk early morning air, before there are many cars out. I now use the bike to get to work, but still walk to the gym.

    One of my motivations for becoming semi or early retired is to walk the PCT without having to worry about what I will do for money either while on the trail or once I finish. I guess I’m just a huge fan of walking. Nothing else like it.

  • Jakob April 13, 2013, 3:46 am

    Monday morning i’m going to call in sick at work. Then i’m going to drive my SUV to the hospital at the other side of town, and sit in the waiting room for hours. Hopefully, i will be able to see the doctor and get a prescription for walking!

  • Ryegirl April 13, 2013, 8:50 pm

    Recently I attended a session on kids and anxiety that was put on by my son’s school. The room was packed! Obviously it’s a problem for a lot of kids. I never considered that just getting out and walking more could help, but it makes a lot of sense. So tonight we turned off the video games and out we went. We talked about all kinds of stuff and threw a few snowballs…it was nice and we will be doing more of it.

  • Alexandria April 14, 2013, 8:27 am

    The sad thing is we are probably no uber-walkers (we live in a neighborhood that initially had -0- walkability). BUT, unlike the average American, we shunned strollers past age 2 (probably even sooner), and do regularly walk anything within a few blocks. (It’s sad how unusual this).

    Anyway, so my spouse was watching two different kids this week. HE had to pick up a 2nd grader 3 blocks from our house and walk him back to school (3 blocks), a few hours later, for a test. So he tells me how slow and whiny this kid was. We were marveling about this, as the kid is 8 and should be able to walk a few blocks, and should have more energy than us older folk. Anyway, the next day he ended up with an unexpected kindergardener in his car when he picked up our eldest child. HE had no room in his car to pick up younger child, so did the usual “drive home and walk to pick up second child,” though he was running a little late at this point with the last minute “playdate arrangements + babysititng a younger sibling.” The Kinder was slow and freaking out. So we were marveling how these families must absolutely never make their kids walk anywhere. On some level I can give the 5yo a bit of a pass, keeping in mind our culture. But on another level, obviously a 5yo that expects to be carried everywhere (he did ask my husband to carry him!), turns into that 8yo who can’t be bothered to walk 3 blocks. Which I think goes back to our stroller culture, too. It’s amazing how little parents expect of their small kids to use their own two legs. (Which obviously turns into a lifelong habit of never walking small distances).

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 14, 2013, 8:43 am

      These school-related stories seem among the most insane to me. I often fantasize about putting a Local Traffic Only zone around the school, with no parking lot or drop-off area, so it is impossible to drive kids all the way to the school door. At the minimum, you park a few blocks away and walk, but in reality, you probably live within two miles, so you can easily bike it.

      Our old historic elementary school is from the days long before cars, so there is no parking lot at all. The teachers who drive park on the street next to the school, which helps fill up the spaces, and make parent parking a bit inconvenient. I’ve heard from several peers that they end up biking or walking, just because the car scene there is a zoo. Win!

  • Sister X April 15, 2013, 12:05 pm

    I’m glad the video mentioned the dog. For myself, my little dog is very much an anti-lazy motivator. She goes NUTS for walks so I get guilted into walking on days when I would otherwise give in to my laziness. She’s also an anti-boredeom fighter. Just last night my husband was complaining about how bored he was and I suggested taking the dog for a quick walk. This turned into a quick walk (about 15 mins, not directly there) to the corner store for ice cream, which was the motivation for him to work out once we were home. (No ice cream until after the workout!) Boredom gone and everyone had fun, plus we’re just a bit healthier.
    I’m currently involved in a health and fitness motivation program at work. You accrue points for healthy things like exercising, drinking water, eating vegetables, etc, for prizes at the end (money!) depending on how many points you’ve got. I’ve done this program every year and what kills me is just how LOW they set the bar. I’m pretty sure that for the lowest tier, all you’d have to do is count drinking four glasses of water each day to win a prize, nothing else. I’ve gotten the highest prize each time I’ve done this and I usually don’t have to log any points halfway through the final month because I’ve already won. And this is just with my normal routine! I don’t change any of my habits. It makes me wonder…just what on earth do these other people do and eat that the top tier prize is so easy to win? I know it’s “hard” for other people because otherwise they would have changed it by now. It’s just…baffling.

  • jesse.anne.o April 15, 2013, 12:36 pm

    It’s amazing how easy this is to do as the weather’s turned nicer. I feel gross if I don’t walk. This post was a good reminder to add in some extra walking and the comments were a good reminder that I’m grateful to live in a really walkable city (NYC).

  • mave April 16, 2013, 2:12 pm

    Great post! thought I would share this talk by Satish Kumar.
    He walked from India to the U.S. 50 years ago. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EQ1HtzXxQU

  • Sarah April 17, 2013, 1:46 pm

    so I read this before my lunch break and then walked for 45 minutes out in the beautiful spring weather (75 degrees, sunny and breezy in beautiful Virginia) and then came back inside and brought my miles chart up to date. thanks for the nudge.

  • Giddings Plaza FI April 18, 2013, 1:23 pm

    Walking is my all-time favorite exercise. I don’t even consider it exercise–it’s just something I need to do. Like you, I walk at least an hour a day, alone, to clear my mind and see nature unfolding around me. Unfortunately, I also spend much of the day glued to my laptop, on my butt. The video you embedded is a good reminded to get off my butt more often.

  • JR May 2, 2013, 7:55 pm

    Walking is a great, peaceful, mind expanding exercise. The great thing is that it doesn’t even feel like “exercise” if you’re doing it with someone you like or in a neat environment that can be anything from canvassing the swapmeets to combing the sand for shells.

    About half the time I go “shopping” (more like “looking,” lol) it’s to fun little stores and is more fun than a museum since you can actually pick things up and play with them. Antique shops, or Downtowns are great for this.

    Love the slowed down pace a good walk brings. Never regretted.

  • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow May 2, 2013, 11:48 pm

    a friend posted this on their FB wall

    95 year old still goes to gym every day, quite impressive


  • Mary May 30, 2013, 7:51 am

    Found this today by using the Random Article button!

    I took up walking five years ago – I take a 20 minute walk to my local train station to get into the city where I work (saving $25 a week in parking fees at the station!) and also aim for a 20 minute walk most work days at lunch – totalling one hour a day, five days a week of gentle movement.

    With that one simple act, I have saved $6,250, improved my health (I also lost over 100 pounds!!!) and have avoided knee surgery.

    WALKING ROCKS!!!!!! : 0 )

  • Anna April 7, 2015, 4:40 pm

    My husband and I walk a half an hour every evening around our neighborhood, and we usually walk when we meet up with friends when it’s a mile and a half or less. Our friends will often see us and stop on the side of the road and ask if we need a ride home, or when we meet them somewhere they’ll say “oh my gosh, you walked here? That’s so far” when it’s 3/4 mile. Even when we walk to our friend’s house that’s literally around the block from us, they’ll insist on giving us a ride home “because it’s dark” even though we live in a totally safe neighborhood with sidewalks the whole way. When I took their kids trick-or -treating, they were afraid their kids (ages 8 and 5) would be too tired walking, but of course the kids were so excited about the candy that they went more than a mile without realizing it. It was fun!

  • mlmachle July 18, 2015, 5:52 am

    It was surreal taking 6 months to hike the Appalachian Trail (2181 miles in 2011), only to turn around and take about 18 hours to drive back to North Carolina. Completing the Trail was easily the most rewarding accomplishment to date, and it really puts into perspective how very little one needs to be happy.

  • Mark LeGear December 24, 2015, 9:25 am

    I am a big advocate for walking. As a physiotherapist, my whole profession is about using exercise to fix ailments of the body. Myself and my brother are both exercise based physiotherapists and rely heavily on home exercises for our success. Patients that do their exercises and take them seriously do well. Some people want pills or simple cures to get better and they are the ones that run into long term problems.

    I love walking and will go for at least one walk daily (preferable if I can get two or more). I learned this from my mother, who walks several times a day. It is one of the healthiest and relaxing things you can do. My advice is to put the head phones away and just walk and enjoy your surroundings. Learn to be able to just have quiet. If you can do this, your quality of life and length of life will greatly improve :).

  • Kent August 12, 2018, 2:02 am

    Walking and cycling as a part of everyday life is made so easy for me because I don’t own a car. So if I want to hit up the grocery store; 10 minutes one-way by bike. Cycle to the pool; 12 minutes one way. Over to the bus stop to head downtown, 5 minutes walk. Down to the bank or library by bike, 15 minutes. Ride to the shore, 15 minutes. Add all these up during the course of the day, week and year and presto, prescription filled.

    • Seth August 13, 2018, 12:08 pm

      Isn’t that a great way to live? Some might even argue a natural way to live – walking everywhere! Biking is great too.

  • Samantha December 25, 2019, 6:36 am

    I have a genetic joint condition and a secondary blood pressure/heart syndrome that has made it very exhausting and painful/damaging to walk. I’m in my 30s and now using a wheelchair to get around, which has opened up my life, but is obviously not what I’ve wished for myself. I WISH I could walk everywhere, I miss hiking, I have let go (partially) of my dream of walking across Europe when I’m retired. If I could just shake everyone who can’t be bothered going for a walk and tell them not to take it for granted I would. There is something truly amazing about one foot in front of the other carrying you everywhere, all the while making you healthier (barring the few health conditions that are made worse). Go to the woods, go up hills, walk out in the crisp winter air and stay warm from the heat of your own body. These are all things you will miss sorely, and even more so if the reason for your inability to walk was something caused by unhealthy habits to start with.


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