Lynn Gray, M.S. RRCA Certified Run Coach
As our society becomes more focused on technological advances and a busier lifestyle we find ourselves increasingly isolated, stressed, and physiologically more sedentary. The notion of “taking a walking break” is soothing and if practiced, the motion becomes mentally relaxing. Consider “taking a walk” as a far healthier and physically rewarding choice when desiring to briefly detour the stresses of life. It is a fact that the more control we have over our mental and physical well-being, increased overall health will occur, making day to day living more productive and meaningful. Those of us approaching middle age will find many exciting options in the exercise realm and want to be part of the action which a healthy body can deliver. “Taking a walk” will give the muscular and mental medicine needed to be continually mobile and physically independent throughout our lives. Later on as you add a bit of intensity to the walk with a faster pace there will be increased aerobic benefits.
- Friendship: Perhaps the greatest walking movement benefit of late is the camaraderie gained from joining walking groups planning a distance goal such as completing a 5K or a
- Mood enhancer: Regular walking can greatly reduce depression. The ages of sixties, seventies, and beyond reveal an increased sense of isolation and lack of physical and mental stimulation. Retirement, increased isolation from not being in a social environment, and decreased physical health drive the later ages into negative habits often leading to alcoholism and increased drug use. A group walking program resolves this by providing its own social network. The younger ages gain increased self-esteem with an outlet to establish them competitively in a physical arena which supports walking and running events. For adults, a recent survey indicated that when they began engaging in a walking program to feel good about themselves. More than not, adults are becoming increasingly proactive with their overall fitness. Physiologically exercise increases endorphins, the neurochemicals occurring naturally in the brain which elevate the mood and reduce anxiety levels.
- Increased Coordination: Accidental falls occur more frequently as one allows muscles, balance, and posture to deteriorate. In fact falling accounts for a large number of deaths after 65. The walking movement establishes a continual heel to toe striking gait which aids balance and overall body coordination. The range of motion or leg span of a vigorous cardio walk together with the fast movement of the arms reminds the walker to practice a balanced posture during fast forward movement.
- Bone Density: After thirty or so many of us are being reminded to engage in exercises to increase bone density and therefore avoid breaking bones easily. By age 65 one in four women has osteoporosis and may have thin bones which look like a honeycomb. From forty on, an increasing number of women get osteopenia, a predecessor to osteoporosis. Many studies have been made which show that the impact of walking, cardio walking and running can slow down and even reverse bone loss by promoting bone to become denser. Lastly, the more muscles we gain surrounding the bones, the more protection our bones and vital organs receive from impact incidents.
- Get Flexible: Living out the middle ages and onward reveal a loss of fluidity both in the joints and largely in the muscles. The long span required for a full cardio-walk movement requires a stride length of 12 to16 inches in length which lends itself to leg flexibility. Using the knee as a hinge joint helps with keeping forward movement both fluid and steady on strong knees with well-developed tendons and ligaments. The use of arm propulsion of cardio walking is analogous with the knee/leg movement. In this case the range of motion is established with a full arm swing and assisted with a flexible elbow joint.
- Up the Metabolism: The war of the worlds for many of us begins with weight loss vs. weight gain. Let’s look at weight gain first. Cardio walking greatly increases the metabolism; the body’s ability to burn energy. Conversely, as we age and our appetite decreases, a vigorous walk will stimulate the appetite thereby assuring the important nutrients and minerals to be absorbed into the body. The frosting on the cake for those who desire to lose weight is the development of leg, arm, and core muscle. The increased density of muscle mass increases metabolism even while you are sedentary.
- Digestive System Relief: Increase of motion by walking results in a decrease in diabetes due to the body removing sugar from the bloodstream quickly. The intestines are stimulated with vigorous cardio walking. The form needed for cardio walking includes a constant slight swing left and right with the arms which gives the intestines a slight “twisting” effect. This continuous twist will help stimulate bowel movements and in general help rid the body of waste.
Lynn Gray, M.S., RRCA certified Coach, owner of Take…The First Step Training Studio
www.FirstStepPrograms - Lgray88@ yahoo.com – 813-453-7885
Author of: Conquering the Marathon, Fit and Faster, Cardio Walking for Weight Loss,
SMART Kids – Fun in Movement and Smart with Food Choices