Walk it Off
Every year, a new exercise machine or fitness routine is marketed as the fitness breakthrough that will change your life. While these products and processes may indeed work, you were born with the equipment you need to get fit and stay fit: your two legs. Let the marketers talk the talk, all you need to do is walk the walk.
The benefits of walking
Studies show that a regular brisk walk helps you:
- Build better health by lowering blood pressure and high cholesterol; increasing bone density, joint health and muscle flexibility; benefiting arthritis and coordination; and reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and colon cancer.
- Maintain ideal weight by using body fat for energy.
- Enhance your brain fitness, mood, self-esteem and mental well-being.
- Boost immune function, sleep quality and energy level.
- Relieve stress, worry and anxiety.
In fact, the US Department of Health found that walking reduces mortality rates for adults of all ages—walk and live longer.
An all-ages activity
As families struggle with full schedules, fitting fitness into daily routines can be nearly impossible. Who has the time and energy to round up the kids and go to the health club? If you don’t, start small with walking. Kids used to walk to school, bike to their friend’s house and play outside more. Now they ride the bus, sit in front of the TV screen and hail mom’s taxi. It’s no surprise that more and more of our youngsters are overweight, out of shape and developing health problems.
- Walk around the block or to the park. Make it a daily habit, before or after supper. If a park is nearby, let the kids play on the playground while you walk a few laps around the park perimeter.
- Park at a distance. Instead of spending ten minutes looking for that perfect parking place (or waiting in the drop-off line at school), park farther away and spend the time walking to the door.
- Walk for transportation. A revolutionary idea! If you are less than a mile away from the grocery store, school or friend’s house, walk. For safety’s sake, accompany your young children.
Walking also benefits the older generation. Seniors who walk reduce their risk of heart problems, falling, fractures and the resulting loss of independence that happens when a broken hip or heart attack results in the need for extended nursing home care.
Find a friend
A buddy makes walking more fun, encourages you to maintain a brisk pace and provides accountability. It’s much more difficult to skip your daily walk if your buddy’s out front waiting for you. If your work is sedentary, use your breaks to take a walk with co-workers. Studies have shown that three, brisk, ten-minute walks offer just as many health benefits as one 30-minute walk.
Walking builds more than health, it can also build relationships. Whether your buddy is your spouse, your next door neighbor or your mom, walking gives you an opportunity to communicate and become closer.
Davison & Grant 1993
US Dept of Health 1996
British Heart Foundation 2000