LPNI Health Topic – June 2017


Walk Your Way to Health

Maybe you are a bit like me – I am not into running. Or maybe you have had an injury and you can't run. So walk! Each and every step you take is part of your journey to better health.

Research from the National Runners Health Survey and the National Walkers Health Study found that the same energy used for moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted is similar reductions in the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and possibly heart disease over the six years of the study. The more people who walked or ran each week, the more their health benefits increased.

Walking requires no special training or equipment. Good shoes are important and should feel supportive, not snug or restricting. Light weight, flexible shoes with shock-absorbent soles are ideal. No special clothing is required. Let common sense be the guide. A T-shirt and shorts in warm weather, and dressing in layers for cooler times. A hat and gloves are also important tools. For safety wear brightly colored clothing and reflective strips if you walk when it is dark.  For safety purposes, walk facing cars if there is no sidewalk. Beware of dogs and unfamiliar surroundings or people. When you begin walking take time to stretch and to warm up and remember to stretch when you finish. Begin modestly and set realistic goals for yourself. Incorporating walking into your daily routine helps to increase your activity. You can work-in walking when you: 1) take the dog out for a walk, 2) park farther from your workplace or shopping, 3) window shop at the mall, and 4) walk during your lunch break. If you are especially busy, you can split your walking into 10-15 minute segments.
With walking it is not all or nothing; it is step-by-step. The main thing is to walk naturally and comfortably. If you want to aim for an ideal stride, try to keep your posture erect with your chin up and your eyes forward. Keep your shoulders square, your back straight, arms close to your body and bent at the elbows. To avoid problems, back off when you are ill or injured. Staying well-hydrated is always important, but especially in hot weather. Walk indoors in bad weather at a gym, the mall, on a treadmill, or even in the hallways at work.

Maybe you have been sedentary for a while. With walking that is no problem. Even if you start with a few minutes a day, simply moving will have benefits to your heart and balance. Each day you can increase activity slowly. The American Heart Association now recommends that adults aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity per day and at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.

Walking has it all. It's simple and natural, very moderate to intense. You can walk alone or with others, inside or out, in the country or in the city, at home or away. You can get all the benefits of moderate exercise with a very low risk of injury. And, it is inexpensive.  With all things considered, Charles Dickens got it right: “Walk to be healthy, walk to be happy.”

Carol D. Zimmermann, MS, RN
Parish Nurse, Lutheran Church of the Living Christ
Madison, WI 53715  USA        czpeople@gmail.com
references: American Heart Association/American Stroke Association at www.heart.org and Harvard Health Publications at www.health.harvard.ed/newsletter