The first Wednesday in April is National Walking Day!

Bob Owens used to be a first responder, where being in good physical shape is just part of the job. When he stopped working, Bob found it was exceedingly difficult to stay in shape. His weak lungs and chronic fatigue from sarcoidosis were getting in the way. something many sarcoidosis patients can relate to. However, Bob found a solution to this problem, and posted about his experience online. With his permission, we are republishing it here:

I am retired from 27 years as a first responder. I am also on disability, along with all of the negative perceptions that can bring. I have hobbies, a close circle of friends and family close by. Life is not…unfulfilling, but certainly not like the satisfying grind of a long life of public safety service.

In short, I have become bored and complacent. I find myself sitting in my recliner way too often. I stopped being active. My lungs are scarred and joints hurt. I am on some strong meds, including monthly infusions. The meds give me short-term flu-like side effects.

It is amazing to me how quickly one can get soft and out of shape. Inactivity, chronic fatigue, and comfort eating pile on the pounds. Friends and family write it off as enjoying the retired life, but I knew I needed to do something, and do it soon.

Having once been in pretty decent shape, I had some ideas of what to try. I bought expensive exercise equipment. I searched the internet for the latest diet fad. I searched for that magic pill that promises 20lb per month drops. And yet, I still felt poorly, and only had a minimal weight loss that threatened to come back at any moment. I needed a spark.

My family physician, a patient man, had been watching my struggles. He told me the solution was very simple: eat less and exercise more.

The doctor suggested watching calorie intake, but also said, “exercise is the foundation that any weight management program is built on. He wanted sixty minutes a day of activity. “But Doc,” I said ” You know I have weak lungs and fatigue” I protested. He replied he wanted 60 minutes total of “Movement” every 24 hours. He said to break it up to four, fifteen-minute sessions, or even six, ten-minute sessions. “But for God’s sake get out of the recliner and move!”

Coincidentally, my wife and I had just rescued a young female German Shepherd named Dutchess. I am at home all day with her.
German Shepherds are high drive animals who refuse to be couch potatoes. She was constantly wanting to go for a walk, pacing and whining to get my attention.
So we started walking. She was very easy to train to a lead and could sense my early limitations. Soon we were taking 30 minute walks every day. We got to know people and their dogs in the parks we visited. Soon, we were up to gently paced one hour walks. We walk on some hilly trails and some paved paths. Dutchess is my “Pace Car” making me work a little, but she always knows when to slow or stop if I need a breather. She was exactly what I needed. I now wonder who rescued who. Pounds came off and I started feeling better.

My Doctor was correct (of course) that steady exercise- every day- is the key. Weight loss induced by steady exercise is permanent weight loss. The pounds do not come back. My joints feel better and my lungs feel more elastic than they have felt in years.

Sarcoidosis, like many chronic diseases, wears down your psyche. You fall into the rut of “I can’t do that.” If people can be motivated to just walk to the end of the driveway, then the end of the block, then around the block, they are on their way.

Walking is an exercise that nearly anyone can do. Don’t make any excuses. Start with 100 feet the first day. It’s still 100 feet more than you would have gotten. Your body will quickly get used to it, and soon you’ll go farther and farther. The key is movement instead of sitting.

Bob credits his training partner Dutchess for helping him get back into shape, and is an advocate for animal rescue. He believes that finding the right companion can help motivate you to get back in shape!