by Cindy Witt
Not only are our boots made for walking are bodies are made for walking! At one point in our history walking was our only mode of transportation. We are mechanically designed to be walking machines.
However, as methods for getting us around evolved, from the horse to the Segway we, in conjunction, are becoming more sedentary. We find ourselves circling the supermarket parking lot for the spot closest to the entrance, taking the elevator instead of the stairs or using a golf cart while playing our favorite sport. The more sedentary we are the more unhealthy we will be.
Walking is a very valuable fitness tool whether your age is eight or eighty. For seniors, it is an effective way to lower blood sugar, reduce body fat, lower blood pressure, improve bone density and keep you “regular”. It can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Walking is one of the first modalities used as a rehabilitation tool for post surgery patients. After a heart attack (once there has been a postoperative assessment and few days rest) or hip replacement surgery one of the first things a patient is asked to do is to get out of bed and walk because it promotes blood circulation and helps to prevent joints and muscles from seizing up.
Another benefit of incorporating walking into your lifestyle is its low cost to participate. Other than the price of a good pair of shoes and a rain slicker or umbrella the only cost to you is commitment. Your local park, high school track, ocean front sea wall or sidewalk outside your home can all serve as your “fitness facility”.
Along with the physiological benefits are the psychological benefits of walking. The beauty surrounding a forest trail, the soothing sound of the ocean lapping against the shore are just two examples of the positive mental stimulus and stress relief walking can provide. Combining walking with social interaction also promotes good mental health. You can ask a friend to join you on or get involved in a local walking club.
Numerous studies show that brisk walking a ½ hour a day, five times a week can significantly reduce your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes or joint problems. For those that have any of these medical issues, walking can be instrumental in preventing their progression. For those that don’t have a ½ hour a day to spare, studies have confirmed that breaking the time into three ten minute sessions will have the same health benefits. As your participation in walking continues, incorporating some hills will further increase the benefits of walking by challenging your heart, which in turn strengthens your cardiovascular health.
It is important to note that you should always consult your physician before you begin any exercise program. As you progress in your walking program it may be helpful to consult with a personal trainer who can advise you on how to diversify your exercise program to achieve even better health benefits.
Walking is fun, provides numerous preventative health benefits, reduces stress, and improves your quality of life. The great outdoors is your treadmill, you just need to make the commitment to start. So put on those “Boots” and start walkin’ on the road to better health and well being.