Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Joy of Walking

Greetings all! I would like to share with you my personal experiences in walking for exercise and good health, enjoyment, and the thrill of accomplishment. The beauty of walking to stay fit and feel better is that most anyone can participate and the goals you set are your own.

About 6 or 7 years ago my doctor warned me of my increasing weight (borderline obese), family risk factor of heart disease, and a dangerously high cholesterol ratio (HDL to LDL). He prescribed Lipitor to manage the HDL cholesterol level but recommended regular exercise and diet to manage the other factors. That was the challenge - playing competitive basketball anymore was not an option because of repaired cartilage and aging joints, especially the knees. And I don't use treadmills in large part because I work long hours underground and can't bear the thought of missing any daylight that is left.

BENEFITS FROM WALKING
  • Manage cholesterol - extended walking will raise your LDL cholesterol but it is gradual and requires extended, regular exercise.
  • Weight control - Walking can help you lose weight but it must be done regularly and you should improve your diet at the same time.
  • Opportunities to reflect - walking can be boring for some but take advantage to reflect. Some of your most creative thinking may emerge. You may even want to take with you a voice recorder so you can capture some of your most inspiring reflections. And it's okay if people think you are talking to yourself!
  • Listen to podcasts and audiobooks, although do be careful of your surroundings. I mix days with podcasts and music or nothing at all.
  • Find where your local nature trails are and take advantage of them.
  • Take photographs and share with others
  • Walking can be social - walk with your spouse, friends, family, and neighbors
  • You can compete in walkathons for good causes and raise money.
  • Manage stress - when you improve your health and sense of well-being, then stress will naturally decrease as well.
  • There is less wear and tear on the joints. The shock factor of a runner's step is 3-4 times a person's weight but walking is usually only 1 to 1.5. Sports such as basketball and tennis can reach a SF of 6 or 7.
  • Manage asthma - Many folks with asthma report fewer attacks when they exercise regularly and I can attest to that personally. At the end of long walks I enter a "zone" in which there are no effects of asthma - exhilarating! (however, like death and taxes, it does come back.)
  • Burning calories. There is no question that running burns more calories during the same amount of time - more bang for your buck. However, many of us do not run really fast and all of us could improve our walking speed over time. For example, if you walk for 30 minutes at 4 miles per hour you will burn 165 calories. Running 5 miles during the same amount of time burns 285 calories.
  • Blood pressure - A study shows that 40 minutes of brisk walking (3 or 4 mph) will reduce blood pressure and this article explains why it works.
  • UPDATE For baby boomers genes play large role in staying healthy until 65. After that exercise & nutrition more important http://usat.ly/broX9E. In particular read the short version or the in-depth article of why walking 6- 9 miles per week appears to protect the brain against shrinkage in late adulthood.
HOW TO GET STARTED
  • Most Americans walk less than 6,000 steps per day and many much less than that. I have known of office managers who always work at their desk and can not manage more than 3,000 steps in one day. Get up from your desk often and take short walking breaks.
  • Purchase a pedometer and start calculating how much you walk. Then set goals to realistically increase your average steps per day. The recommended average is 10,000 daily steps.
  • Establish a walking route and schedule regular times to achieve your goal no matter how modest it may be.
  • Finally, I recommend purchasing quality footwear (personally I have had great luck with Nike Air Monarch) and to make sure you have plenty of toe room!

RELATED LINKS

2 comments:

  1. What a comprehensive post about something that a lot of people know little about. Congratulations on taking control of your health and ensuring that you improve it in a safe and effective way. As someone who still works at a gym, I see too many people push TOO hard at the beginning and hurt or exhaust themselves so bad, that they do not want to come back. The benefits that you speak of are not about a "diet" but they are part of a lifestyle change that you can continue. If we really want to be healthy, we have to look at our habits and how they can be improved and maintained. Even when I feel I can lose some weight, it is about adjusting what I do for the long term, as short term diets lead to the "yo-yo" effect.

    Great advice on this post and I appreciate you thoughts on walking. I have started to do it more often with my dogs and myself, just to improve what I am doing and to enjoy the world outside of school and home. I love it more everyday!

    Thanks for your openness on this post and for all the great info!

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  2. Hi George,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments, which are on target - indeed many of us start an exercise regime with the best of intentions but fall short after realizing they were too ambitious. Walking for fitness and a way of life was a process for me and through Joan's inspiration and the TEMT blog I finally wrote about my experiences with the purpose of encouraging others to consider its benefits.

    Joe

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