walking-for-health

Walk to Health

I am a walker.

I used to be a runner. I started running in 2000 at age 48, doing 5k on asphalt pavement in our neighborhood – 3 or 4 times a week. My best time was about 28 minutes, but that got longer as I got older. At the end of 2013 I suffered a ruptured disc, and an MRI showed that some of the discs in my lower back were “shot” as my doctor put it. It certainly seemed to me that the pounding my discs had endured in the 7,000-plus miles I had logged over 13 years didn’t help them.

Although I had been in severe pain, I did recover, but reluctantly decided that it was time to retire my running shoes.

I have a gym membership, but I only go there weekly to swim. I have an exercise bike and a home gym, but exercising indoors is just not for me. B-o-r-i-n-g. So I decided to start walking. I enjoy the outdoors and the elements. I enjoy the time to be alone and think – or not think about anything. I enjoy the quiet and peacefulness. I enjoy greeting the people I see every morning, I enjoy the sun coming up and seeing the different birds and the seasons change. More than one person has stopped me and told me that seeing me every morning inspired them to exercise – and that makes me feel good.

It’s What Our Bodies are Designed to Do

Walking, as opposed to running, is what our bodies are designed to do. When you think about our primitive ancestors, you wouldn’t think they ordinarily would need to run for more than a few minutes, maybe to capture dinner – or escape being something else’s dinner! Besides that, there were no vehicles, so travel was all done on foot.

I walk  about 2.6 miles a day, and it takes me about 40 minutes. I go out my door about 7am and take mostly the same route every day. I have easily been able to stick with it. Walking is the exercise with the smallest dropout rate, and 60% of Americans walk more than 10 minutes every day, according to a 2011 study.

Although I did put some weight back on after I stopped running, walking has helped me maintain my weight. I have high blood pressure, but I believe walking helps me maintain that as well, although I am on medication too. My cholesterol levels are good, and research has proven that this can be a benefit of walking.

Benefits of Walking

Walking is an extremely popular topic as many people do it! There is a tremendous amount of information about walking and its benefits, and I’ve listed some below.

Helps Brain Health

Physical activity is essential for good brain health, and walking is an easy way to achieve that. Walking can help boost your memory and creativity.

Gets You Off  Medication

In one study, those who took the longest weekly walks were likely to use less medication. This doesn’t mean the ones who accumulated the most mileage per week and it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go for shorter walks during the week. Just try to get in one extra-long walk once a week.

Promotes Heart Health

One study followed 50,000 men and women over 18 years and found that those who walked 30 minutes a day had a 40% lower risk of having a stroke. Those who walk regularly suffer fewer heart attacks.

Boosts The Immune System

Regular walking can cut your risk of some diseases by 50%.

Relieves Stress  and Improves Your Mood

Walking lowers cortisol and boosts endorphins, reducing stress and lightening your mood. It may even help with anxiety and depression.

You Are More Likely to Continue Exercising

Lets face it – walking is easy. It has maximum benefit and minimum effort, and it’s enjoyable. You hardly have to pay attention to what you are doing – so the likelihood you will keep at it is good!

Decreases Risk of Obesity

Walking an hour a day can cut in half a genetic disposition to obesity, and walking is associated with less body fat and lower weight.

Reduces Risk of Arthritis and Osteoporosis

Because walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it helps strengthen your bones and muscles, reducing your risk of arthritis and osteoporosis.

Lowers Risk Of Dementia

Numerous studies show that the amount of walking one does helps proportionally to reduce mental decline, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Walking Can Be Meditation

Do you find it difficult to find time for meditation? Walking can help you turn down the noise in your life, quieting you mind and increasing awareness.

Cuts the Risk of Breast Cancer

Women who started a regular walking program after being diagnosed with breast cancer had a 45% higher survival rate than women who chose not to exercise. If they were walking prior to their diagnosis they had a 30% additional chance of survival.

Saves Money

Walking is basically free. All you need is a road or trail and a pair of comfortable shoes.

Improves the Quality of Sleep

Another study showed that those who took one-hour morning walks had better sleep and were less likely to suffer from insomnia.

Helps Vitamin D Levels

Walking out-of-doors enables you at certain times of the year, to produce more Vitamin D. This may help reduce weight, as overweight people are more likely to have Vitamin D deficiencies.

Walkers Live Longer

A study showed a correlation between walking intensity and life expectancy. The faster you walk, the longer you might expect to live.

Tips and How To Walk

  1. Start slow. Depending on your physical condition, you may want to start with 5-10 minutes – but do it at least 5 times a week to make it a habit. Work your way up to at least 150 minutes a week.
  2. Yes, you DO have the time. There is nothing more important than taking care of your own self. No one else will do this for you and if you don’t do it you will suffer.
  3. For safety’s sake, always wear clothing that will enhance your visibility. Don’t walk on busy roads, and do walk facing the oncoming traffic.
  4. Put a little “oomph” into your step. Leisurely strolling may be better than sitting and eating potato chips, but you should walk like you’re late for an appointment.
  5. Leave that cell phone at home!
  6. Keep your head up, your shoulders relaxed, and swing your arms with your elbows bent slightly.
  7. Pick a route – you might drive it with your car first to check the distance.
  8. Nice, cushiony, comfortable-fitting shoes with good support are ideal, and I like to wear thick athletic socks too.
  9. Some recommend warming up, cooling down and stretching – but I’ve never done any of this. :/
  10. Walk with a friend if you want to. This adds a dimension of sociability to your exercise and strengthens your mutual commitment via a buddy system.
  11. Bring some music. If the peaceful meditation aspect of walking is not important for you, then some lively tunes might put a little bounce in your step.

Optional Gear

I have used a GPS-enabled sports watch for the last five years, I have tracked all my runs and walks. It measures and my distance and speed, and I can upload this info to my computer.  It adds an extra dimension to my exercise.

Your Move

Now it’s up to you! If you start a walking program – or currently have one – please leave a comment and let us know how it works for you!


References

http://www.rodalenews.com/benefits-walking

http://www.rodalenews.com/walking-program

http://everybodywalk.org/national-walking-day-5-ways-walking-helps-relieve-stress/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/06/national-walk-to-work-day-2012_n_1407821.html#s847916title=It_Reduces_Fatigue

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/29/green-space-meditation-brain-walk-park_n_2964199.html?utm_hp_ref=less-stress-more-living

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danny-and-katherine-dreyer/walking-meditation_b_1790035.html

http://www.sharecare.com/health/walking/article/walking-benefits

http://www.arthritistoday.org/what-you-can-do/staying-active/walking/mental-benefits-of-walking.php

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/exercise/benefits-of-walking.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/walking/art-20046261

http://www.realsimple.com/health/fitness-exercise/benefits-walking

http://www.startwalkingnow.org/whystart_benefits_walking.jsp

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