BY SIMEON GANT
Consider how much time we spend watching television on a couch. Have you ever thought about how many hours a week you spend sitting at work or how many hours a year you spend sitting in your car? Apparently, calculating the amount of time we are sedentary versus the amount of time we spend exercising our body may indicate our risk of obtaining cancer.
I don’t want to obtain cancer. I don’t want to have a stroke, congestive heart failure, or gain an uncontrollable amount of weight or fall into the debilitating effects of diabetes. Today, I see no signs of any of those ailments, however, credible studies and medical professionals confirm people who spend more time sitting than exercising are at 32 percent higher risk of endometrial cancer, 24 percent higher risk of developing colon cancer and 21 percent higher risk of lung cancer according to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and Men’s Health Magazine.
I recently caught up to an organization called the Family Wellness Group (FWG) in San Francisco, led by Oakland native and realtor, Kevin Benson, to hike 8.5 miles through moderately rugged terrain, up and down steep and treacherous stairs steps, a little bit of beach sand and some magnificent, sweeping ocean and mountain views of the bay with the most photographed landmark in the City, the Golden Gate Bridge.
About 25 of us, mostly African Americans aged 40-60, exercised our legs, knees, ankles, hips, arms, butt, abdominal, shoulders and neck by simply hiking. Various doctors, fitness instructors and health professionals agree; hiking nourishes the mind, increases blood flow and strengthens the heart. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise has mood-boosting benefits.
We must have produced a good ton of feel-good hormones called endorphins, because we sweat, we contemplated, we climbed and conquered the 4.25 miles from the historic Sutro Baths near the Cliff House Restaurant all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge and 4.25 miles back up and down the stairs across the sand and to the parking lot to prepare our final stretch and back into the body stiffening, soul-snatching vehicle transporting us through the freeway and across the bay bridge.
As a sporadic exerciser I was not aware of how this hike would affect my unprepared body or how my body would adjust to the hike. It started fine until after one mile we hit our first set of steep stairs. I didn’t bother to count how many steps we climbed, but I did notice half way up, my knees and the muscles around them began to twitch and strain. I could actually feel the muscles that had previously worked fine without me even aware of their effective mobility. But all of sudden, it hurt a little. When we reached the sand, I then realized, this is exercise. My heart rate increased. I could nearly feel the blood flowing through my body and the sweat started to roll from my brow across my face. More sweat found its way down my back and other nether parts of my body.
That one knee that always hurts after 10,000 steps showed up on cue, but after 12,000 steps and completing the hike near the clean, refreshing ocean breeze, I felt great. My body felt like I had just provided it the nutrition it needed; a healthy dose of physical activity awakening muscles that rarely get used in a strenuous manner.
It felt great! The challenge now is, how do I continue this life-lengthening activity? Joining others, who are like-minded and determined to remain consistent about increasing their physical activity, at their own pace, helps encourage us to keep up the self-sustaining exercise regimen.
The Family Wellness Group, based in Oakland, CA hikes every Saturday at a different locations challenging its members to consistently exercise your mind and encouraging health and wellness by simply going for a long hike.
Family Wellness Group seeks to bring together the Black community for weekly hikes in public parks as a way to foster healthy lifestyles in both physical activities and nutrition in a supportive environment. Everyone is welcome. All fitness levels are supported and carpooling to the hike location is always available.
More information about FWG can be found at