Put Your Best Foot Forward
It’s fall in Texas and the weather outside is perfect for taking a walk. Walking has been proven to have many benefits, and what better place to start a walking routine than the Hill Country? According to the American Heart Association, walking has the lowest dropout rate of any physical activity. Think it doesn’t do any good? Think again. Walking is low impact; easier on the joints than running. It is safe – with a doctor’s okay – for people with orthopedic ailments, heart conditions, and those who are more than 20% overweight. In addition, research has shown that you could gain two hours of life for each hour of regular exercise! That quick stroll around the block seems a little more worthwhile now, doesn’t it? Here are 7 proven benefits of walking:
- Your mood will improve
After a rough day it can be really nice to indulge in a glass of wine or chocolate ice cream – you feel relaxed, satisfied, and rewarded. But what if there was an even better way to get the same feeling? Going for a walk is a positive endorphin strategy with the same benefits, but it also helps you lose weight, sleep better, and save some money. Regular walking has been shown to modify your nervous system so extensively that you’ll immediately experience a reduction in stress. Exercise can be a great mood booster, especially when shared with friends or family. Walking outdoors also helps you get some natural sunlight, which has benefits ranging from a boosted immune system and stronger bones to helping prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the winter blues.
- Your mind will sharpen
Whether you’re facing challenging projects at work, or are having trouble solving a tricky problem, you need your mind at it’s best. According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition, simply going for a walk can boost creativity. Dr. Sanjay Sharma says, “Walking is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function, and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia.”
- Your jeans will get a little looser.
Regular walking can improve the body’s response to insulin, which can have a tremendous effect on our weight. As the pounds start to fall off, walking gets easier and even more pleasant. Walking is low impact, but has enough movement that it helps keep our bones, joints, and muscles strong. It’s great training for our balance also.
- You’ll slash your risk of chronic disease.
The American Diabetes Association says walking reduces your blood sugar levels and your risk for diabetes. University of Boulder Colorado and University of Tennessee researchers found that a regular walking routine lowered blood pressure and could reduce the risk of stroke by 20% to 40%. The New England Journal of Medicine found that those who walked 30 or more minutes on 5 or more days per week had a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Research shows that walking can even reduce your risk of breast and colon cancer. “The physical and mental benefits of walking are well-documented,” says Dr. Sara Stuart. “We need to stay active to protect our health.” According to the Harvard Medical School, poor balance often leads to falls, which can cause head injuries and other disabling injuries. Hip fractures, in particular, can lead to serious health complications and threaten a person’s independence. A combination of activities such as walking and strength training can improve balance and prevent falls, especially in older adults. Walking also reduces the risk of osteoporosis and can keep our bones strong.
- Stronger legs look great
As we age, varicose veins tend to increase. However, walking is proven to help prevent them from developing. Walking helps to strengthen the circulatory system, which means the heart doesn’t have to work as hard, and varicose veins don’t develop as early.
- Improve your digestive system
Regularity is very important; having a healthy gut greatly affects how we feel. A regular walking routine can improve gastric mobility, and it’s one of the first physical therapies an abdominal surgery patient is required to do. Walking also utilizes core and abdominal muscles, which encourages movement in our GI system.
- Walking can be the start of changing your life
According the the UK’s National Health Service, the average person only walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day, but aiming for 10,000 steps is a better goal. Establishing a routine of walking isn’t hard, it doesn’t take much time or preparation. But, when you become a regular walker, you have changed part of your life and created a healthy routine – and when you have a routine, you are likely to see the benefits and want to start new healthy behaviors. Walking regularly opens up a new world for many people – they see the benefits of healthy living and it provides the motivation to accomplish even greater goals.
Walk with a Doc is a walking program for everyone interested in taking steps for a healthier lifestyle. What better way to start your weekend than on your feet making strides to help your heart and improving your general health to live longer! While you walk at your own pace, you’ll have the opportunity to have questions answered by local physicians.
This program was started in Columbus, OH in April of 2005 by Dr. David Sabgir and has now expanded throughout the country. You don’t need any special gear and there are no special rules. Just put on a pair of comfortable shoes and walk alone, with friends, a partner or family or with a group. It’s a personal preference.