Weaving walking into our daily lives adds benefits beyond simple exercise. One of the marvelous things about walking is that it doesn’t require a lot of specialized equipment. If you have comfortable shoes, a hat, and perhaps a walking stick, you’re good to go.
My husband and I are very fortunate to live near a university with a lovely botanical garden that offers walking trails to traverse while viewing the beauty of nature. An extra benefit from walking the paths through the gardens is that we can see what plants grow well in our area – and give us ideas for our own landscape projects.
Walking can not only benefit the walker, but also the area you walk in. My neighbor and I enjoy taking a ‘litter-pick-up’ walk about once a week. She has one of those ‘litter grabbers’ so we don’t have to touch what we’re picking up to put in our sacks. We get to enjoy each other’s company while tidying up our neighborhood at the same time. It’s also fun to greet others who are out and about, and we’ve made a few new acquaintances as well.
Other ways of walking
Even if you don’t happen to live near a botanical garden or have an environmentally-conscience walking partner, walking can still happen. Outdoor tracks at your local YMCA are good places to walk. One trick that can be helpful is to park on the outer edges of a parking lot in order to increase your steps. Take the stairs, and the long way where ever you are going. Pacing while talking on the phone can be an easy way to sneak in a few steps.
An ongoing 20-year study for the Radiological Society of North America conducted by Cyrus Raji, Ph.D., from the Department of Radiology at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and his colleagues have concluded that “Walking may slow cognitive decline in adults with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in healthy adults.”
“We found that walking five miles per week protects the brain structure over 10 years in people with Alzheimer’s and MCI, especially in areas of the brain’s key memory and learning centers,” said Dr. Raji, “We also found that these people had a slower decline in memory loss over five years.”
In Defense of Walking
Even though walking seems to be viewed as a bit more passive, and doesn’t get the same glory as other, more aerobic forms of exercise, it still packs a pretty good punch. Walking is so powerful that according to heart.org, it has the potential to extend your life, “For every hour of brisk walking, life expectancy for some people may increase by two hours.”
One of the reasons walking is so good for you is that it also strengthens the soleus muscle in the calf. The Soleus, also known as the ‘second heart’ acts as a muscle pump – pumping blood from the legs back into the heart. If you’re feeling adventurous, walking on tip toes can help strengthen the Soleus as well.
The very fact that walking is not as aerobic as other forms of exercise makes it a better choice for many. For me, walking is ideal. I have found, that as I get older, my knees do not like a lot of impact. Some of the more energetic types of workouts may cause one or both of my knees to become painful or swollen. In those cases, I am sidelined from any activity until my knees recover.
One aspect of walking is that you don’t always have to go forward. In fact, if you have any knee issues, walking backwards can be good therapy for both your body and mind. Of course, you need to be extra cautious and continually be aware of what is behind you.
Reasons and Benefits of walking
A medically reviewed article by healthy.com provides “14 Benefits of Walking for Just 15 Minutes”. Their conclusion: Walking is a “Free miracle drug”
Another benefit of walking is that during this time of social distancing, walking – even with a partner can happen safely away from others. If you do walk solo, be sure to practice safety measures, some of which is letting someone know where you are heading, staying hydrated, and wear light-colored or reflective clothing. Carry your phone, but don’t give into the temptation to read it while walking so that you can be aware of your surroundings.
So what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present to tie up those tennies and hit the trail.
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