An Old Guy, Mall Walking and a Cup of Coffee

I recently had a grey haired patient, ‘Sam’, who was having a problem with walking. It seemed that the longer winter progressed, the more trouble Sam was having. I wanted to get this ‘Old Guy’ on a home walking program, but as it was still winter, walking outside was not an option. Instead, I told Sam that I wanted him to walk 3-4 days a week at the local mall. He replied, “Four days a week? That’s a lot.” In reality I wanted him ‘Mall Walking’ seven days a week, but I did not think that would happen, so I asked for 3-4 days.

I told Sam, ” Yep, four days a week. You’ve got nothing else going on. You aren’t doing blood deliveries for the Red Cross. You aren’t delivering meals on wheels or working soup kitchens. You aren’t doing anything but sitting at home. Get to the mall and walk at least four days a week.”

Here is my basic mall walking program. Walk around the mall for at least 30 minutes, (but 45 minutes would be better). Walk until you are tired, then find a bench and sit until you are rested. If you need to, bring a book or a magazine with you, then, while you are resting, you can read. After 30 minutes have passed, your workout will be over. I added as an after thought, “Buy yourself a cup of coffee for a reward on the way home.”

Sam complained a bit about having to get out so often. He wasn’t, however, going to be walking outside in the cold and snow, so he did not really have a choice. Sam did his program 3-4 days a week. On top of that he came to PT 2 days a week. Sam was getting a lot of exercise, (especially compared to his sedentary lifestyle before he came to PT).

Sam, in a fairly short period of time, redeveloped his walking skills. He stopped PT after 6 or 7 visits as he did not need us anymore. Sam was able to walk on level, stairs, and well tolerated all of his daily activities.

This patient care story has a happy ending – as it usually does for any patient willing to work hard. If you are having difficulty walking, ask your doctor about seeing a physical therapist. Do not be surprised if the PT is not very sympathetic and says that you need to get off your backside and start exercising. 

PS: I did not know it at the time, but the secret of this program was the coffee. When Sam was finished with physical therapy he told me the real reason he went to the mall to walk. Every day Sam starts his morning with a daily newspaper and a cup of coffee. When I told him to reward himself with a cup of coffee, Sam had an idea. He would go to the mall and walk, and when he needed to rest he would sit down with his coffee and newspaper until he felt like walking again. Instead of leaving the mall after 30 minutes, Sam stayed until his newspaper was done. This typically took him over an hour.

If anyone ever asks me if coffee helps people walk better, I can say, “Yep! Go ask Sam.”

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