Sitting down at the kitchen table, Erika Veduccio sighed wearily. “I can’t cook dinner. I’m just too exhausted,” she told her husband, Brian. The Carlsbad, California, then-43-year-old had been battling chronic tiredness since her early 30s. Back then, she chalked it up to being a working mom of three young kids. But as years passed, Erika grew more and more tired. She’d have to drag herself out of bed in the morning to see her family off, then because she worked from home with a flexible schedule, she’d go back to bed for a few hours. But even with the extra sleep, she’d struggle to get through her day.
Her doctor couldn’t find any medical reason for her relentless fatigue and suggested anxiety was likely the cause and recommended anti-anxiety medication. But Erika was convinced her fatigue wasn’t a symptom, but instead, the cause of her despair. Not wanting to simply mask what she was experiencing with medication, Erika began searching for a cure to her tiredness. Over the years, she tried adopting an organic diet and cutting down on caffeine. She worked less, set a strict sleep schedule, and made sure to keep electronics out of the bedroom. She even tried meditation and acupuncture, but nothing had helped.
At one annual physical, Erika’s doctor suggested exercise as a way to boost energy. How can I exercise when I need to nap after doing a load of laundry? she lamented skeptically. Desperate to try anything, she took his advice and joined a gym, but this only became a new source of stress and guilt as she fought to find the energy to go.
How can walking help chronic fatigue?
Then one day in 2019, a co-worker told Erika about a new app, called 99walks, explaining that it’s a walking program that offers motivating classes and podcasts, and best of all, a community of some 12,000 women for support.
Walking is exercise, Erika thought, and though the gym hadn’t worked out, she had done research and learned that walking improves oxygen circulation in the body, which can boost energy levels.
I’ll give it a try, she decided, and signed up for a membership for $13 a month.
The first thing Erika had to do was set a monthly walking goal. She aimed for just 10 minutes every morning. But to her surprise, even that short walk invigorated her. And with the encouragement of the online community, she set out again the next day. At the end of the month, Erika felt so good that she stuck with the program, and each day, she walked a little farther. She even used her meditation experience to soak up the beauty of her surroundings. As weeks passed, Erika felt her spirit healing, and her energy ramping up. Within two months, she was walking two miles a day and felt more alert than she had in years.
Today, Erika, 44, can’t envision a day without taking a walk. “It’s amazing how, instead of tiring me out, walking actually boosts my energy,” she beams. “I’ve never felt more alive!”
What’s the science behind it?
A quick stroll keeps levels of the stress hormone cortisol steady. And researchers at Ohio State University say avoiding cortisol spikes improves your body’s ability to effectively regulate blood sugar — especially when done every day.
Moreover, Swedish researchers discovered that when done daily, a 10-minute walk stimulates the release of hormones that enhance the brain’s ability to control the body’s internal thermostat. The result? Hot flash severity drops by 75 percent!
To top it off, researchers at the University of Michigan collected data from more than 500,000 adults and found that a 10-minute walk boosts mood by 30 percent. The scientists credit the walk’s ability to trigger the production of “happy” brain chemicals.
Thanks to walking, you can say goodbye to chronic fatigue!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.