Walk About: Simple Steps to Well-BeingSep 30, 2021 06:30AM ● By Laura Paisley Beck
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People that wear a fitness watch get a little buzz on the wrist as a reminder to get more steps in each hour, but many ignore the simple opportunity that exists to exercise upright for free anytime and anywhere. “Yes, we take walking for granted,” says Alexia McClerkin, a Houston chiropractor whose clients include professional and elite athletes. “Most people only walk as far as it takes to get to their car.”
Sitting is the New Smoking
According to On Your Feet America, Americans sit 10 hours or more each day, and that sedentary habit is considered hazardous to our health. It may contribute to climbing obesity rates in the U.S., currently at 44.5 percent among those ages 40 to 59. Today’s most common preventable diseases are directly linked to obesity, the key word being “preventable.”
Walking briskly daily has proven to increase metabolism, lower both blood pressure and resting heart rates, and burn calories. Other benefits include improving mobility, equilibrium and stamina.
Benjamin Horning, a Laguna Hills, California, chiropractor and author of A Kid’s Guide to a Healthy Spine, says, “I’m a big believer that movement is life. I recommend that if you can move, get moving. Walking is a good starting point. If you can walk instead of drive, go for it. If you’re stuck indoors, schedule 15-to-20-minute walks in your calendar.” It’s important to put it in the calendar because, he says, “You have to make it real.” McClerkin recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of brisk walking a day to increase blood flow throughout the entire body, especially the legs.
Oh, the Places to Go
In the U.S., dogs and humans face similar obesity statistics with similar obesity-related health issues like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Taking dogs out for brisk walks helps prevent and reduce those risks.
Horning says that people may not realize how walking a dog conditions their own bodies. With natural surfaces like grassy or gravel trails and dirt paths, “there are so many neurobiological adjustments you’re making,” he says. Every nature walk provides an opportunity for our bodies to practice balance and sharpen its reflexes.
“Proper shoes make a world of difference,” McClerkin says. They can help prevent plantar fasciitis, hammertoe and many other causes of pain and discomfort.
Anya Jensen, of Anya’s Reviews, a shoe review website, suffered painful foot health issues and discovered the life-changing results of wearing “barefoot” shoes, which have a flat sole and high flexibility. Now she makes it her mission to educate others that fashion doesn’t have to compromise health. “Walking was an important part of my health journey,” she says. “The feet literally are your foundation when you’re walking. Walking in pointed-toed shoes, you’re missing out on so many benefits for your physical health.”
Jensen walks with her kids daily in nature and is proud of their mobility. “With the kids, we need a destination and we pack snacks,” she says. “I like how the world has opened up to us because we’re prepared. We’re wearing the right shoes. We can encounter hills, rocks or the right tree.”
McClerkin and Horning both ask patients to be mindful of their limitations when taking on a new physical activity and to be careful to prevent injuries when adding brisk walks to a daily routine for the first time. “Too heavy a walk on cement and other hard surfaces like roads can cause shin splints,” McClerkin says. “Walk on a track to prevent injuries from an uneven surface.”
“Just be responsible,” says Horning. “Walking is so beneficial. The basics of health just can’t be ignored or taken for granted.”
Humans walk upright on two feet, unlike any other animal on Earth. Walking allows us to connect with our bodies and environment in a very special way, something we can take advantage of instead of taking for granted. Let’s go for a walk.
Laura Paisley Beck is a freelance writer in Madison, Wisconsin. Reach out at [email protected].
Tips for Healthy Walking
- Bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.
- Fuel up with whole foods like fruit and nuts.
- Stretch before and after walking.
- Wear proper shoes with good arch support and wide toe boxes.
- Wear wicking clothing layers, reflective for dark hours.
- Invite canine friends.
- Have a regular walking buddy to keep each other committed.
- Keep the pace/heart rate up, perhaps using a fitness watch to stay on track.
- Consider adding poles for a full body workout and increased stability.