WELL BEING: Walking

2 May

“Walking is man’s best medicine.” Hippocrates

In a world full of fast paced living and high demands on our time, there’s not much more simple and healthy than taking a walk.

Numerous studies have shown walking as the ultimate exercise, with benefits ranging from slowing bone loss to cutting our risk for cancer. Putting one foot in front of the other is a simple way to exercise while making huge strides for our health. Plus, it feels good to move our bodies in this most gentle way.

Walking is a perfectly natural outlet for stress. Who hasn’t paced the floor when trying to figure out how best to solve a problem? Just the act of moving forward serves as a signal to the mind and body that we are “going somewhere”, moving out of the old and into the new.

Strolling, wandering and walking can all be done at your own pace, taking into consideration your own abilities and stamina.  Walking doesn’t have to be something regimented but more of a relaxing pastime. Walking alone is excellent for some much needed quiet time, while walking with friends may be just what you need to improve your wellbeing and reconnect socially.

Ayurvedic Medicine suggests that walking briskly 30 minutes before breakfast and 30 minutes after dinner encourages proper digestion. Which makes sense, as an after-meal stroll with friends may be just as nourishing as the meal you just enjoyed.

Walking comes so naturally to us that it serves many of our daily needs.

Feeling an afternoon lull? Take a quick walk outside for some fresh air, good circulation and a little dose of Vitamin D from the sunshine.

Craving a snack? Maybe a stroll around the block would provide the energy you’re looking for.

Want to get back in shape?  Starting out on the treadmill is a great way to get back into the habit of going to the gym and building your endurance.

A study* correlating the effects of walking on cognitive function found that women who walked at an easy pace for at least 90 minutes each week had significantly better cognitive function and less cognitive decline than women who walked less than 40 minutes per week. Something to think about.

So if you’re ready to shed a few pounds, reduce your blood pressure or rehabilitate after an illness, walking may be just the medicine you need.

 Be sure to consult with your physician before starting a walking program if any of these apply:

  • Diabetes
  • Pregnant
  • Sedentary for more than a year.
  • You are over the age of 65 and don’t currently exercise.
  • You have been diagnosed with heart trouble.
  • High blood pressure.
  • You have chest pain, especially when exerting yourself.
  • You often have severe dizzy spells.
  • Other medical conditions.

*114th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2006.

Send questions and comments to lynnvannoy@gmail.com or visit http://www.lynnvannoy.com.

The information in this column is not intended as medical advice. Its intention is solely informational and educational.

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