I encourage each and every patient I see to find a way to make exercise a regular part of his or her life. Many forms of exercise involve coordination with others, purchasing costly equipment, reserving a court, or taking classes. There is one simple, no-excuse form of exercise that nearly anyone can do: Walk.
Countless studies show that this simple form of movement has numerous and wide-ranging benefits:
Nearly half of all Americans are inactive, and walking is the simplest way to start. It doesn’t involve special training, is safe for new exercisers, and has one of the lowest exercise injury rates.
Walking can be as easy or intense as desired. Start slowly on level surfaces, and increase pace and elevation gradually. Some choose to walk with hand and ankle weights.
Walking regularly for some 22 minutes per day can help with weight loss, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and strengthen the bones, muscles and joints.
Walking is a brain booster; it improves memory and cognitive function. It has been associated with an increase in the brain’s gray matter, and some studies show that walking reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Walking boosts mood and lowers stress, especially when walking outdoors, in a natural setting.
Walking helps to improve our energy level. Many people reason that if they feel tired, how can they go for a walk? It is a proven fact that exercise gives us more energy.
Walking improves sleep and helps to resolve insomnia. This is especially true for those between 50 and 75.
We hear a lot about walking 10,000 steps per day. This is not a magic health goal. While reaching 10,000 steps is admirable, one study showed that even as few as 4,400 steps per day resulted in a lower death rate than did 2,700 steps per day.
Walking with others is a great way to build bonds. Walking with your children can enhance communication, reduce behavioral issues and even help them academically. Walking with your spouse offers similar benefits. Note that most romantic relationships start with a friendship! Take a friend for a walk.
Walking through the neighborhood improves relationships with neighbors, reduces crime rates, and serves as a great way to get to know your community.
Need one more argument? Other than investing in a good pair of well-fitting walking shoes, it’s free. No money spent on a gym membership, yoga classes, tennis lessons, etc. I urge you to consider starting your new walking program today.