Want to fit into a lower jean size? Want to improve your heart? Want to get rid of those blues?
Take a walk, pal.
Seriously, a daily brisk walk can do much for your physical and mental well-being – maybe even more than running a marathon.
A lengthy study by Harvard University concluded that walking 25 minutes of walking per day reduces the risk of heart and cardiovascular disease and events by 31 percent.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine says daily walks of up to 30 minutes per day improve body composition and decrease susceptibility to blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure issues. It also strengthens bones and muscles and improves balance and coordination.
Likewise, a Stanford University study found that walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression. The study said that people who walk for 90 minutes in a natural area showed a decreased activity in the brain region associated with brooding.
While walking seems like a simple activity, there are a few recommendations to help maximize the benefits of this exercise:
- Keep your head up. Be aware of your surroundings and keep looking forward.
- Make certain your neck, shoulders and back are relaxed. Enjoy the walk, and don’t get so uptight.
- Use your arms with your elbows slightly bent. That arm pumping helps get your body in sync.
- Try to slightly tighten your stomach muscles and make certain your back is straight.
- Walk smoothly, heel to toe when stepping.
Also, before you heading out for your walk, take a few safety precautions:
- Invest in the right shoes. Buying them from a sports store that specializes in walking shoes is worth the extra bucks. A firm heel and thick and flexible sole will help absorb the shock. Your knees and shins will thank you.
- Wear clothes that are appropriate for the weather. You should avoid getting overheated.
- Wear brightly colored clothes, especially if you are walking along a street or roadway. Athletic clothes that have reflective tape are a great extra safety measure.
- Pick your course carefully. Know the neighborhood. Avoid paths with bad sidewalks and potholes.
- Warm up for about 5 to 10 minutes before heading out for your walk. A little stretching makes a big difference in avoiding injury. Be careful and don’t overdo it. Save the big stretching for after your walk when your muscles are more flexible.
- Take about 5 minutes to cool down after you finish.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Dehydration can be dangerous.
Stay motivated by walking with a family member of friend. Dogs love walking, too. You will noticed how much better you feel about yourself and everything else around you.