Walking: Why Do It?

walking fitness

“Ugh,” I moaned to my husband, “I really wanted to get in a four mile power walk today –- but I just don’t have the time!”

“I wish you would,” he replied.

“Why?” was my astonished response.

“Because you always come back from your walks in a better mood,” he explained.

Being a woman, I started to take offense at his implication that I was in a bad mood, but I caught myself. There was a lot of truth to his words. It had been two weeks since I had gotten one of my walks in, and I was feeling it. My body felt sluggish, my brain like mud, and little things were really annoying me. Looking at my to-do list resulted in overwhelmed tears coming to my eyes and in spite of my exhausted state, I just wasn’t sleeping soundly at night (which, for once, had nothing to do with my baby).

Truth be told, I had no time to not take a walk.

Google “why walk” and a slew of articles will come up about the benefits of walking. As I have discovered in my own life, it helps increase the quality of life overall. It helps me get centered and more focused, get my blood flowing which seems to help me feel like I have gotten a mini detox, and somehow helps me sleep better at night.

Specialists states that walking burns as many calories per hour as running does. The main difference between the two is the impact on your joints; walking is much gentler and kinder to your body.

The same website goes on to state that walking can help brain function and slow down bone loss.

Women who walked 1½ hours a week, at a moderate pace, also showed better cognitive function and less cognitive decline than women who didn’t do any walking.

Walking works your muscles. It gets blood flowing to them and helps them achieve more tone and strength than if you just sat all day long. We all long for a little more muscle tone and a little less flab on our bodies.

A healthy heart is another result of walking. This comes from the loss of extra weight that walking 3-5 times a week can achieve, as well as lowering high blood pressure.

An article by the AARP concludes that walking helps control blood pressure and that just 3 hours of walking a week reduces the risk for heart disease by 30–40 %. It goes on to state that the risk of stroke is cut in half by the same amount of walking. Those statistics are too significant to ignore.

The doctors adds to these statistics by reporting that walking helps lower the LDL levels (bad cholesterol) while raising the HDL levels (good cholesterol).  The same article goes on to report that walking helps the body process sugar better, thus reducing the risk of Type II diabetes.

Walking can also provide an excellent chance to spend time with friends and family on a regular basis. Get in a soul-cleansing chat with your girlfriend as you hit the pavement for 30 to 60 minutes each day.

Enjoy a hiking trail with your spouse for an entire afternoon. Stroll beside a lake with your kids and let the walking give them a chance at getting some exercise, while at the same time letting them have some much-needed time with their mom.

If a person hasn’t been walking on a regular basis, how does one start?

Start by deciding that you are going to do this in an effort to take care of yourself. Don’t look at it as a have-to sort of thing, but instead view walking as a desirable activity that is going to improve your outlook on life, help you feel better physically, and help you take care of your body.

Buy a good pair of walking shoes. These shoes need to have good support and a bit of wiggle room in the toe area. Whereas running shoes are less flexible in the front part of the shoe, a proper walking shoe will have flexibility and bend in the front part. This helps achieve proper walking — heel to toe, with a push off from the toe.

The right walking shoe should feel comfortable immediately, not after it has been broken in. Go for comfort when buying your walking shoes, not necessarily style.

Begin by setting goals for yourself. If you walk an hour the first day but your body is not used to doing that, you will become tired and discouraged pretty quickly. Your walking days will be over before they’ve even begun. Instead, begin in short, 15-minute increments. Determine to yourself that for two to four weeks, you will walk fifteen minutes a day, three to five days a week.

After you have achieved this goal, add five minutes to your time every 1-2 weeks. Chances are, you’ll be adding that five minutes more than every one to two weeks, but if you truly have to build up to it, this is an incremental enough goal to keep you from becoming quickly discouraged.

Walking can be anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes a day to achieve the results mentioned above. Thirty minutes may be all you have to use on most days, but other days you can’t help but go for an additional thirty because it is so refreshing to be out walking.

The pace of walk will depend on your fitness level, but the recommendation is anywhere from ½ to 1 mile per fifteen minutes. If you can’t walk at this pace, don’t give up! Walking at a snail’s pace is better than no walking at all.

Incorporate walking into your daily schedule. Even if it looks as if there is absolutely no time for even a 15 minute walk, there is. Park in the furthest parking space at the grocery store, walk to the cafeteria at your job instead of taking the elevators, walk to your next flight instead of using the moving sidewalk, and take walks around your yard or block with your kids when they get home from school.

The other day I noticed signs in a hospital with the words, “Employee Walking Trail” with arrows, and I noticed two groups of people at two separate times with scrubs or office clothes and sneakers on, following the signs. These days, even some work places are recognizing the importance of walking and creating indoor walking trails for their employees. If your place of work offers this, check it out!

You’ll be surprised how many fifteen minute walking increments you can get in your day by purposefully creating walking opportunities.

As for where to walk, check your local area and see if there are any trails specifically created for walking. More and more communities are forming walking trails and a few simple phone calls can find where yours is. If there isn’t a specifically designated walking trail, call your local high school and ask if their track, or even soccer or football fields, are available to the public for walking at different times.

For rainy and snowy days, call your local health center to see if there is an indoor walking spot. Again, more and more malls, schools, and even hospitals, are opening their doors to the public at preset times so the facility can be used for walking.

Getting started in a walking program takes a bit of time and effort, but the end results can’t be beat.

Enjoy your walk. I know I will today!

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