Last week on Fitness Friday, we established that walking is an equal opportunity, no-cost, do-it-almost-anywhere way to get some exercise. But there’s more! Walking is fun, it’s relaxing, and most importantly it’s good for your health. Today’s Fitness Friday provides an overview of the many benefits of walking. When you’re done with this quick read, I’m sure you’ll agree that heading out for a walk each day is a great idea, and you’ll be motivated to stick to your walking schedule.
No matter how fast or slow you walk, walking gets you outside and in the fresh air. This makes you feel better as your body absorbs the oxygen and sunshine. Did you know “nature deficit disorder” is a real thing, especially for children? Richard Louv describes it this way: “Nature-deficit disorder is not a formal diagnosis, but a way to describe the psychological, physical and cognitive costs of human alienation from nature, particularly for children in their vulnerable developing years.” Bottom line, make getting outside and walking outside a priority, and take the kids with you!
I’m not a believer in dieting to lose weight or in any program that seeks to get you to a certain weight or clothing size. I am a big believer in maintaining my body at a weight that is comfortable and healthy for me. Only you and your doctor will know what that weight is. Regardless, regularly walking can help you get to and maintain a healthy weight. The amount of food you eat is the biggest determining factor in weight, but walking is a tool that can help you keep your body functioning well. Shawn M. Talbott, PhD has this to say: “As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise.” Eat well and go for a walk. Your body will thank you.
I’m a total klutz, so it’s scary to think what life would be like if I didn’t walk every day. As you walk, you’re working your sense of balance and coordination by navigating uneven ground and ascending and descending paths. A simple walk helps, but you can give your sense of balance a greater boost by moving your head to take in the sights and sounds around you. Turn your head to the right and left and up and down periodically as you walk. If you’re klutzy like me, check out these additional exercises from fitness trainer Dave Reddy that you can do while walking to improve your balance and coordination:
This is an important benefit for women. Sadly, as we age and our estrogen levels drop, our bones can become weak. Happily, you don’t have to end up with brittle bones. Walking is a low impact form of exercise that strengthens your bones and muscles. If you really want to pump up the bone benefits, walk more quickly, walk stairs or steep hills, walk backwards, and do jumps. Prevention magazine offer this advice for incorporating jumps into your walk: “To try this on your next walk, set a timer on your phone or keep an eye on your watch and, after walking for 5 minutes, jump every 30 seconds for the next 10 minutes. For your jump, pause with your feet together, bend at the knees as you swing both arms back, then explode upward. After you finish 20 jumps, walk for another 10 minutes, then repeat.”
Finally, walking releases endorphins that lift your mood and reduce mild symptoms of depression. Linda Wasmer Andrews says walking elevates mood even when we don’t expect it to and even if we are walking in ugly surroundings. Give it a try. The next time you’re feeling tired or in a bad mood, get up and take a walk. You’ll be rewarded with a better mood and more energy.