Clinical Medicine

Why Not Try the Oldest Form of Exercise? 7 Reasons to Start Walking

In our world of long working hours, keeping up with social media, and the demands of our family, we often don’t find the time to exercise. Once work is done, just the thought of driving to the gym or even just getting on the treadmill at home is painful. Are long work hours making it hard to find time to exercise? Are you tired of being overweight but just don’t have the energy to start exercising; or maybe you just don’t like strenuous activity? But how about just taking a stroll in the park or around the block? No pressure, just walk. Walking is the least strenuous exercise which has many benefits.

Did You Know? 

Walking is good for your heart and lungs! 

Regular walking has been proven to strengthen your heart and lungs and improve circulation to your whole body. Walking allows your heart to beat faster, enabling your heart and lungs to create oxygenated blood and transport it to the muscles in your body. By exercising your heart and lungs, they become more efficient. This leads to a reduction in blood pressure and prevention of heart attacks and strokes. 

Walking protects your bones and cuts down on aches and pains!

Walking uses 95% of your muscles and it pushes your bones to get stronger so that you can handle the load. “Chi Walking”, developed by Danny Dreyer, a marathon runner, is a form of walking that incorporates Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi. It is regular walking with a more conscious awareness of the alignment of your body.

Walking cuts down the risk of breast cancer!

One study shows that walking 30-60 minutes a day, 5 days a week is essential to keep a healthy body, as well as helping to decrease adipose (fat tissue), which is a significant factor in reducing the risk of breast cancer.

Walking keeps you fit!

Walking 30-60 minutes a day can prevent weight gain, and can reduce obesity by burning calories. Walking also improves muscle tone in your legs and in your abdomen. 

Walking aids in the retention of memory!

Walking for 45 minutes a week helps to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Exercise decreases the amount of amyloid in the brain. Amyloid is a sticky substance made up of protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer’s patients. Walking alone, and even better, walking with someone and talking helps to accelerate brain function, since exercise boosts levels of hormones necessary for nerve cell production and increases blood flow to the brain. 

Walking helps you to sleep!

A walk in the afternoon helps for a better night’s sleep, as shown by the National Sleep Foundation. Walking helps to boost a chemical called serotonin, which helps you to feel relaxed after you walk. 

Walking can make you happy!

Walking has been shown to relieve depression, stress, and anxiety. Walking helps to produce endorphins, the body’s natural mood-enhancing chemicals. This chemical helps to diminish stress and depression, allowing you to think more clearly and positively. 

The Art of Walking

1. Always warm up! Start your walk with several toe touches, knee bends, and body twists at the waist. 

2. Keep your first walk short; up to 20 minutes. Do this three times a week and gradually build up your time as you notice that your body is getting stronger. Even if you have to take several minutes to rest before starting again, it’s okay. Your body needs to be able to get accustomed to your new exercise. If you feel that 20 minutes is too much, then start with only 15 minutes or even with 10 minutes. But whatever amount of time you decide on, the important thing is to START!!! 

3. While you are walking, remember to: Keep a steady pace; enough to allow your heart to beat faster. Take deep breaths while walking. Breathing is the key to doing well in most exercises, as it creates balance in your body. Keep your head up, your back straight and your belly flat. Allow your arms to swing however they want, and bend your knees slightly while you walk. Make sure to walk facing oncoming traffic. Finally, cool down after your walk. You may repeat the stretching exercises you did before you started your walk. 

4. Shoe Gear: Make sure you have comfortable shoe gear. The sneakers should consist of breathable mesh and have good support at the arch of the foot. Make sure to try on shoes when your feet will be slightly swollen, usually in the late afternoon, or at the end of the day. Speak with your Podiatrist about the right type of shoe to wear when you go on your walks. You might need orthotics, or special inserts in your shoe to enable you to walk more efficiently, and without pain. 

5. Should you see your physician or PA before you begin walking? Walking is rarely associated with any health risks. It is the oldest form of exercise and a safe way to get your exercise in. If you do feel that you might need to see your physician, as you have multiple medical problems, a regular history, and physical is a good start. This is especially true if you are a smoker, have diabetes or heart disease, or if you are over 60 years old, and have been inactive for a significant amount of time. 

Now you are all set to begin walking, and on your way to a healthier and happier YOU!

Sharon Joag, DPM

Dr. Sharon Joag, DPM is currently a student at Columbia University, graduating with an MSW in Social Work, graduating in May, 2024. She is hoping to work in the mental health as well as in the field of Aging and Artificial Intelligence. Dr. Joag recently retired and sold her Podiatry practice, in Old Bridge, New Jersey after working for 17 years. Dr. Joag is also a certified health coach since 2015. As a mother, Dr. Joag loves spending time with her family, and her two cats. Dr. Joag loves to read, write, paint and play tennis in her spare time. Growing up in many different places, including India, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Queens, she often found herself spending a large part of her time reading fairy tales, mysteries and making up stories with her younger brother. Her creative energy has led her to write poetry in a book called, “A Collection of Poems”, as well as a collection of short stories called, “OMG Baby”. Throughout her academic career Dr. Joag has had a passion for writing and continues to publish as a freelance writer.

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