Walk into better health this summer!
by Shannon Lynch
Sunshine and nice weather are on the calendar for the next several months, making summer an ideal time of year to get outdoors and begin or continue a regular walking program.
The beauty of walking is that it is free, can be done almost anywhere, and comes with numerous health benefits, such as strengthening your muscles, improving your balance, maintaining your weight, keeping your joints flexible and helping you sleep better.
Walking on a regular basis has been shown to lower a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and osteopenia and osteoporosis.
A daily walk can help lessen the pain of arthritis in some people and other studies indicate that walking can strengthen abdominal and back muscles and lessen back pain. Before you begin any walking program, check with your health care provider who can advise you if you have any concerns.
If you aren’t used to walking for exercise, health experts stress starting out slowly, perhaps with a short walk in a park or just around the block for a couple of weeks. As your body warms up to the idea of a daily walk you can increase your pace and lengthen the number of minutes you walk.
To stay safe, wear a sturdy pair of walking shoes or comfortable sneakers. If you feel a little wobbly walking outdoors, consider investing in a cane or a pair of walking sticks to help with balance and stability.
Stay aware of your surroundings when you’re out walking, scanning for uneven pavement and curbs if you are walking on sidewalks, and roots, leafy debris and other obstacles when you are walking on trails.
For a pleasanter walk during the warm summer months, plan to be outside in the early morning or early evening when it’s cooler. Bring along a bottle of water so you will stay properly hydrated.
Having a friend (or friends) to walk with is a fun social activity can boost your confidence as you build your walking muscles and can be an incentive to lace up your sneakers and get walking!
If you need an additional incentive, take along your smartphone and use an app to track your steps or strap on an activity tracker like a Fitbit that tracks an array of activities, including steps taken. Even a simple pedometer might give you the motivation you need to make walking a habit. Seeing those steps mount up gives you a goal to shoot for.
Your daily walk can help you maintain a more positive attitude about life. When you are out walking you are releasing those feel-good endorphins that reduce anxiety, boost your mood and create an overall feeling of well-being.
Walking is an easy and effective low-impact exercise for seniors, and walking on a regular basis, approximately 30 minutes each day, shifts you from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active one, helping you enjoy a healthier life. And remember, it’s free and can be done almost anywhere!
Shannon Lynch is the Executive Director of Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care and respite care. Summit by Morrison is part of The Morrison Communities in Whitefield, NH, which includes the Morrison Skilled Nursing Facility and Sartwell Place Assisted Living.
The Morrison Communities is a non-profit 501©(3) charitable community that has been providing quality healthcare to residents of New Hampshire’s North Country since 1903. For more information, go to www.themorrisoncommunities.org