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Even Busy Women Can Get Outside: The Health Benefits of Walking
Summer is the time when Mother Earth most urgently encourages us to enjoy her glory. Most people tend to be more active outside during summer months and with good reason. For one, it’s simply beautiful outside when the leaves are green, and flowers are flourishing. It also is a time when people take more vacations and workloads seem to get lighter.
Here Are the Health Benefits of Walking
Many of us often feel so busy that we can sometimes neglect our physical health. Yet heart disease is the biggest killer in modern society. Walking can help reduce one’s risk for coronary heart disease, especially if done regularly and at a brisk pace. Walking also can help protect one’s joints because it helps strengthen the muscles that support the joints. It even has been shown to decrease cancer risk, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, improve memory, aid digestion, and boost immune function. Moreover, walking has a low rate of injury. With all of these benefits, walkers save money on medical care.
Secondly, because we wear less clothing in the warmer months, most of us think more about what the more visible parts of our bodies look like and want to feel healthy. You can get toned by walking. One of my neighbors lost 30 pounds in short order when he started taking rigorous daily walks with his dog.
Walking can clear your head and boost energy levels. I practice deep breathing when I walk, which re-centers me. My creativity soars when I have a clear mind. My mood also is elevated when I walk. Exercise in general improves one’s mental health and decreases stress, and there is no easier exercise than walking.
Some of my friends listen to podcasts when they walk. Most podcasts are free, and they cover a wide range of topics. There is something for everyone. I enjoy listening to TED Talks when I walk. I strive to learn new things every day, and TED Talks provide excellent mental floss, like this TED Talk. An upbeat music playlist, on the other hand, may add verve to your steps.
It has become somewhat popular in recent years. You can read more about this practice here. Walking through woods can be meditative. Meditation decreases our blood pressure and re-centers us. Although I live in a metropolitan area, there are parks and wooded areas. And the air feels cleaner and more refreshing out of doors.
All of us can benefit from walking, according to numerous studies. Not only is it better for the environment than driving, but it is better for our bodies and our minds. With a sedentary job, I need to make time to walk more. My dog helps me build walking time into my days, but I also enjoy solo walks. I have met more neighbors, discovered abundant gardens, and enjoyed the animal life I am able to observe when I am quiet.
New Yorkers typically have lower body fat percentages because they live in a city where most people walk as much as possible. Having a car in New York City is expensive and a hassle. The city is rich with attractions and interesting things to see and do. Seeing it on foot offers many rewards. When I visit New York, I strive to walk in a new neighborhood each time.
Having a walking partner may help to keep you on track. If I know someone is waiting for me or expects me to walk on a given day, I will make more of an effort, even if I am tired. If you do not know of anyone who would like to walk regularly with you, consider finding a meetup group or joining a walking club. You could even start one yourself.
Hiking is a terrific weekend activity. Our national parks offer true treasures, and many are free. More people discovered the national parks’ pleasures during the pandemic, so if you plan to stay overnight, look into reservations. Once you build up your hiking confidence, you may even consider walking the Appalachian Trail, doing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, or even trekking in the Himalayas.
Feel like you have no time for walking regularly? Park further away from your destination, get off of public transportation one stop early, and increase the distances you walk to get places. Do errands on foot. Try some high stepping in place when watching television.
Some people are very motivated by pedometers or step trackers, which are built into iPhones and Apple watches. Ten thousand steps a day, or about five miles, is a common goal. A friend of mine does loops around her living room, dining room, and kitchen to make up steps to get to 10,000 if her regular travels do not yield enough steps to make her daily goal.
You need not join a gym to garner physical health benefits. Get outside. And start walking.
About the Author
Name: Maria Leonard Olsen
Professional Title: Attorney, Author, TEDx Speaker, Mentor to Women in Recovery, and Podcaster
Bio: Maria Leonard Olsen practices law in Washington, D.C. She is an author, podcaster (Becoming Your Best Version), journalist, TEDx speaker, and mentor to women in recovery. Maria has served as a political appointee in the Clinton Justice Department and on numerous boards. Learn more at MariaLeonardOlsen.com.
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