For National Walking Day, 5 things to know about improving your health by walking

Bob and Linda Larimore enjoy their walk along the Hamilton Greenbelt on Nov. 10, 2016, with their dogs, Sam and Calli, both rescue dogs. SUE KNOLLE FOR LAKE TRAVIS VIEW LAKEWAY

Is it National Walking Day already? Yes, it is — and to give you more reasons to appreciate getting off the couch and into your best pair of comfy shoes, the good folks at Seton Healthcare have outlined five things to keep in mind if you want to improve your health through walking:

 

1. It’s great for your heart

Aerobic exercise, such as walking, will increase your heart rate and help lower your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The advantages of walking, health experts say, is it provides benefits without high-intensity stress on your body.

“For most people, establishing a long-term habit of walking is more feasible compared to running or other more intense exercise,” says Seton Heart Institute cardiologist Raymond Bietry.

A study in the American Heart Association journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, found that the more runners and walkers took to the streets and sidewalks, the more their health benefits increased.

2. It’s good for your mind, too

According to the Arthritis Foundation, walking can:

  • Releases endorphins that can help fight depression and improve your mood.
  • Releases serotonin, which can help you relax and get the most amount of deep sleep at night
  • Strengthens your muscles, promotes joint health and can prevent bone loss for people with osteoporosis.
  • Help fight against memory loss and lower the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Make time for 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day

The American Heart Association and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

You’re busy, so how can you pull that off? Try these tips:

  • Have a set walking time
  • Walk with a partner or your dog
  • Bring music with you via your smartphone or an MP3 player.
  • Break it up into multiple small walks, as long as each session lasts about 10 minutes

4. Work walking into regular activities

 

  • Instead of looking for the closest parking spot, park further out and walk.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • If you’re walking the dog already, add hand or ankle weights to amp it up.

“No matter how slow you go, you are lapping anyone on the couch,” Bietry said. “So start with small lifestyle changes and go from there,” he said.

5. Make walking a habit

Try these tips:

  • Set realistic goals. Use a pedometer, smart phone app or journal to track your progress. Raise the bar once they are met, and keep going.
  • Soft, breathable clothing and walking-specific shoes are key to walking in comfort.
  • Be safe. For early morning or night-time walks, wear reflective gear.  Carry a flashlight and walk in familiar areas. Always let someone know where you are and carry a phone for emergencies.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen, hat and sunglasses to protect against harmful UV rays.  If it gets too hot, or rain interferes, head to the mall for an indoor option.

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