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Walk Farther, Live Longer

Being active is beneficial to general health and well-being. Numerous studies have shown that on average, regular exercise improves your quality of life and longevity. But the idea of starting an exercise program can be daunting, especially if it hasn’t been part of your lifestyle for a long time.

The good news is that exercise is easily accessible to almost anyone. There are no expensive gym memberships required, no fancy equipment to buy. Getting in shape and improving your odds of living longer is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who walk or who find other ways to remain physically active live longer by reducing their chances of contracting high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, joint and bone ailments and depression. Even walking less than recommended amounts results in lower mortality risk than people who do not engage in regular walking or exercise.

Walking is especially beneficial for joint health, according to the Arthritis Foundation. A good walking program helps you maintain a healthy weight, which in turn reduces stress on joints and bones. Walking also helps keep joint stiffness and inflammation in check.

Taking Your First Steps

It’s not always essential to see your doctor to begin a walking program, but it is recommended if you have chronic health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes, or if you are over age 40 and have been living a sedentary lifestyle. Your doctor can advise you on any underlying medical issues you should account for, provide an assessment of your fitness level, and help you set appropriate goals. Once you start, see your doctor right away if you notice ill effects such as dizziness or difficulty breathing.

Other checklist items before getting started include stretching and warming up to prevent injury, wearing athletic shoes that provide adequate support, being smart about sun exposure and skin cancer prevention, and choosing a route with pedestrian safety in mind.

Experts say to get the full positive effects from walking requires about 150 minutes per week of brisk walking, classified as moderate aerobic activity. For comparison purposes, if you were a runner, you would get the same benefit running 75 minutes a week.

Seeking Walking Opportunities

But don’t feel pressure to get to 150 minutes all at once. Start out by setting attainable goals, walking for at least 10 minutes at a time, and building your way up.

One way to do that is to look for opportunities to add more walking to your daily routine, and slowly building them up over time. These might include having your walking shoes with you in the car so you are ready when opportunities present themselves, parking farther away from the office or store entrance, getting off the subway or bus a stop early, using breaks at work to take a fast 10-minute walk, walking more while doing errands, and identify places to walk indoors when weather is bad such as shopping malls.

More Than One is More Fun

The family dog shouldn’t be the only beneficiary of your new walking routine. Build your program up by finding a friend or walking group, walking with co-workers during lunch, walking as a family after dinner or even taking part in a fund-raising walk.

Another helpful tip for people just starting out is monitoring your progress. This could include keeping a journal where you document dates, times, distances, and locations or using a fitness tracker that can tell you how far and how long you have walked.

Other Fringe Benefits

Walking offers a lot of fringe benefits.  Walkers see and speak with people that they otherwise would never get to see. If you walk you’re aware of what’s new in your neighborhood, make new acquaintances, and maybe even a friend or two from the people you pass by on your route. You feel more connected.

You can enjoy music or catch up on your favorite podcast or audiobook. Load up your MP3 player and you’ll be multitasking with the best of them. Bring your phone and call Mom and Dad or your children while on your walk. Staying in touch is always important. Why not check in while taking your walk?

With so many digital distractions these days it’s hard to find time for clear thinking. Walking provides the perfect opportunity for prayer, problem-solving, quiet reflection, and making a plan for the next day.

Getting Back in Action

Planning an exercise program is of little use if a nagging injury or chronic pain have you sidelined. That’s where Douglas J. Abeles MD & Associates of Castro Valley, California, can help by providing specialty services in sports medicine, spinal surgery, and general orthopedics.  They specialize in minimally invasive techniques for repairing damage to shoulders, knees, spines, hips, and ankles to assure the fastest recovery time for patients. To learn more make an appointment today.

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