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Sheryl Kraft

Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.

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smelling the roses

Walking: Why Every Step Is Special

Nutrition & Movement

If you know me, you probably wouldn't be surprised to hear me say that I'm the opposite of a couch potato. I'm of the why-sit-when-you-can-stand variety.

In fact, since moving from my house to an apartment, the thing I miss most is my high kitchen countertop, which allowed me to stand while working on my computer; perching my laptop on the counters gave me the perfect eye-level view. Damn you, new kitchen counters! Can't you just grow about four inches?

And on the rare occasions I watch television, you can find me eyeing it while pacing or standing, or jumping up and down at regular intervals to do some things around the apartment (yeah, I guess there's a little ADHD you have to factor in there, too). That is also known as "flitting."

I am a master flitter.

And then when I found out that sitting is actually bad for your health, it strengthened my position that much more. "See?" I told hubby. "That's precisely why I don't sit. It's unhealthy! It interferes with the way your body metabolizes certain fuels, like glucose and lipids." I silently wished my beloved couch potato would morph into a flitter, too.

But my campaign to sit less/stand more was met with deaf ears, until …

I bought hubby a birthday present—a Fitbit Flex. I gave it to him right before we left for our trip to Italy. (In case you're not familiar with this, it's a device that tracks your steps, distance, calories burned and sleep. You see real-time progress on your smartphone or computer.)

Well, a wonderful thing happened on our trip. We walked … and walked … and walked. Let me just preface this by telling you that we are big walkers, especially when on vacation in places that are sublimely walkable. But our walking now took on a different meaning.

"Let's top what we did yesterday," was my wake-up call each morning as hubby strapped the thin rubber black strap onto his right wrist. Before I knew it, we were logging upward of 11 miles each day, stopping only to munch on some tasty pasta or fish. My legs took on a life of their own, taking me down narrow alleyways and rolling hills in search of the next big step.

One day, in our attempt to rack up even bigger numbers, we took an extra walk after dinner. Not a bad thing, under any circumstances.

Walking helped me to slow down and really see the sites. When you move at 3 or 4 miles per hour, rather than 30 or 40 mph, you can examine the minute details of your surroundings, like the cracks on the side of a medieval church or the way the ancient cobblestones feel beneath your feet. You can sneak up to a rose and sniff its luscious fragrance, see the street life of the locals—pet their dogs, admire their babies while exchanging the universal language of warm smiles.

Walking puts you out into the world, rather than behind a window of a bus or car.

Another benefit? We returned home from vacation with zero weight gain, despite our vow to taste all of the available gelato in Italy and wash down our meals with local wines.

The couch is empty. The TV is on. Where is hubby?

Pacing, of course.

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