April 8, 2015

What happened to the runner's "hi"?

New Zealand created the "say hello project".
This initiative asked everyone, on October
4, 2013 to say "hi" to 5 people they didn't
know.  Why? Because people just don't say
"hi" to others any more and "saying hello
or a simple acknowlegement is just good
manners".  Thank you, New Zealand. I
hope this day continued past 2013.  What 
a great idea!  
This is a hot button topic for me and not the first time I have written about it.  In fact, I have written magazine articles, letters to the editor, and many blog posts about this concern.  I have also tried to figure out why it bothers me so much, but to date, I haven't figured it out.  Needless to say, I can only guess it has everything to do with thoughtfulness, sense of community connection, and health.

I was walking my dog on the sea wall the other day while keeping a mental tally of how many runners would pass by and say "hello", "good morning", "nice day", or anything resembling a greeting or acknowledgement that there was someone else in the world.  Approximately ten (this wasn't a very controlled study by any means) runners passed me by without a word, without eye contract, without a smile. This morning, the same thing happened.  For the record, when I initiated the greeting, it was a crap shoot.  Some would reciprocate and others would ignore it.  It was also noted that most, if not all, walkers would offer a greeting or respond in kind when I greeted them.  Hmmmmmm.....interesting. I would be interested to see if anyone has done any real research on this. Why are walkers more connected?

Why does this frustrate me so? It could be my 25+ years in the fitness industry and working along side university and Olympic level athletes.  The culture of sport and exercise supports a focus on self, a focus on individual performance, and takes away from the focus on community, connection, and the like.  What's most interesting is there is a large body of research looking at the health benefits of connection and the power of greeting (a.k.a. saying "hi" to someone you are sharing the path with).  Physiologically, social connection has much of the same benefits as does physical exercise.  A sense of connection can decrease heart rate and blood pressure while reducing the nasty hormones related to chronic stress.  More importantly, it can strengthen the immune system function (while intense running over long periods of time can lead to reducing it). 

By acknowledging someone passing on the street, you are not only benefiting from all the great physiological effects of this, but you are connecting with others...and that benefits them too.  A sense of community is built on social connection.  Good health is the product of a wide variety of practices...not just running and eating carrots.  Good health comes from emotional awareness, social connection, intellectual challenges, and a sense of being a small part of something bigger (i.e. spirituality).  This isn't just bumper sticker bullshit, this is firmly stated in decades of research  (it just doesn't have a half naked, beautiful 12 year old on the cover and empty promises to get our attention). What frustrates me more than anything is the runner, triathlete, or anyone engaged in sport specialization that believes what they do is better or healthier than the person walking 30 minutes a day with friends while enjoying a good belly laugh.  They are truly doing themselves harm and a disservice as they chart their miles and drink their Gatorade (sorry...I realize I am stereotyping...it saves me time that way).
It's too bad the media, medical system, and programs related to "health" and weight loss don't address all the components of health.  If living a long, healthy, and full life is important to you avoid the overidentification of one component (i.e. a focus on training for distance fitness events) and put together a health and fitness program that respects all of the components. 

People are always asking me what is the best exercise.  Based on everything I have learned, read, researched, and experienced over the years, I finally have an answer that encompasses most of it.  If you want to reduce your risk of injuries, chronic disease, stress, and depression while enhancing your cardiorespiratory system (all important considerations for a mobile, healthy, and happy old age) while maintaining a strong immune system function.....(drum roll please)....walk for 30 minutes a day, outside, and with a friend.  No flash, no yoga pants or matching shoes required. There's no sexy message or picture of a ripped, emaciated women on the cover. No empty promises have to made here, just walk.

....oh...and say "hi" to those passing you by!
Eddie and Karl provided this wonderful
example of what to do while out in the
community.  Thanks guys!



  1. Hi Kathi,

    I couldn't agree with you more! Not only is it hard to get a reciprocal 'hi' from a runner, but walking is still the BEST, most accessible exercise you can do! My husband and I really enjoy getting outside for a walk whenever possible. He is so incensed when people do not reciprocate our greeting. We keep trying though!

    You have probably seen Dr. Mike Evan's (from Toronto) video 23 1/2 hours but just in case here is the link: http://www.evanshealthlab.com/23-and-12-hours/

    Another awesome post Kathi!

  2. Great to hear from you, Sara;

    You and your husband sound like great people! I will try and follow your lead and continue to greet without the expectation of a greeting back.

    I LOVE Dr. Evan's clip. I believe I refer to it in my most recent post. I show it in the courses I teach. It always creates discussion. Thanks for the reference though. If you have anything else, let me know.

    Again, I appreciate hearing from you and the time you take to write your thoughtful comments.