(c) 2004 by Patricia Wagner
Did you know that walking is one of the best activities you can do to dramatically increase your level of health?
Many people today are afflicted with "coach-potato-itis!" They come home from work, switch on their TVs and forget that their bodies need maintenance. But one day reality comes crashing through when their doctors say, "You have a problem!"
This article will show you a simple strategy for improving your health through a fun and inexpensive walking program that promises many benefits.
First, it will increase your energy level. Since walking is an aerobic exercise, it helps the heart and lungs become more efficient.
Both PCOPF (the President's Council on Physical Fitness) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) state that a regular walking program can lower resting heart rates and blood pressure. It can help burn excess calories and increase muscle tone too.
Second, walking can enhance your mental health. Taking regular walks can help reduce stress and enable you to sleep better. It can also help relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. When you walk, your body produces endorphins which produce a feeling of wellbeing.
Third, it's fun! The President's Council on Physical Fitness (PCOPF) calls walking the most popular form of exercise. It can be very enjoyable taking walks with a friend or loved one or even in groups. My husband and I often take walks at night and discuss our day. It's a special time for me.
Here's what you'll need as you begin your new walk-for-health lifestyle. Purchase a pair of comfortable shoes, sunscreen or a hat and sunglasses. Choose loose-fitting garments. Bring along a bottle of water on warm days.
But before you briskly stride out the door to begin your new adventure, you'd better check with your doctor first if you experience any of these symptoms:
- persistent dizziness
- chronic shortness of breath
- high blood pressure
- heart problems
- chest pain
When you're ready to begin walking regularly, there are some precautions to take. Walk during daylight hours or at night only in well-lit areas. Be sure to obey all traffic rules for pedestrians. If you decide to wear headphones, make sure you can still hear what's going on around you - like cars honking. Stop and rest if you start feeling sick to your stomach, dizzy or experience unusual pain.
Try to walk whenever possible as part of your daily activities.
- For example, park a distance from stores so you can get some extra exercise going to and from your destination.
- Why not visit local parks to enjoy the beauty of nature while you're exercising?
- Check out the neighborhood where you live to find good routes.
- On rainy days you can walk in malls instead of doing without your exercise time.
- It's a good idea to make a habit of selecting stairs instead of elevators when you need to spend time in office buildings.
- It's more fun if you have a companion. This is good exercise for dogs too - they love to go for walks!
Experts recommend thirty minutes of brisk striding per day. It's best to walk every day, but you only really need to walk five days a week. This can be broken down into smaller segments of time - three ten-minute walks instead of one long 30-minute one.
Try to stride as fast as you can without overexerting yourself. You can tell when you are going at a brisk pace because your heart will beat faster and you'll breathe deeper. However, your heart should not be racing and you should still be able to carry on a conversation.
So get off the couch, put those chips down, slip on your comfortable shoes and start striding your way to better health!