Today, April 6, is National Walking Day! Whether you are starting a new walking program or revamping your current routine, this month is the perfect time of year to get back outdoors, enjoy the activity of wildlife, and connect with your neighbours. This healthy habit can also boost mood, improve heart and brain function and help keep excess body weight off.
According to the WW Guide to Waking, research has found that regular physical activity like walking can help people feel happier, sleep better, and stay strong. All these physical and cognitive benefits help support healthy and active aging and reduce the risk for falls. Enlisting a friend to walk with can motivate adults to stick with a walking program, and maybe even offer a greater challenge with the discovery of a new trail, a brisker pace, or some added distance.
For people who prefer to walk alone or with a furry friend, a walking playlist or podcast can help create a pleasant ritual. Even if you don’t reach a 10,000 daily step goal, going for a brisk 30-minute walk most days of the week can improve fitness, stabilize blood sugar, keep the brain and heart-healthy, and burn calories to help the body store less fat. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that also helps prevent osteoporosis and reduce the risk of bone fracture by promoting bone density.
Perhaps the best thing about a walking routine is that it requires very little equipment other than a good pair of shoes, and can be done in your neighborhood or on a local trail. If you have been sedentary over the winter month and are walking more often this Spring, start off slowly, gradually increasing walking speed and duration. Need a challenge? Try picking up the pace for alternate blocks or choose a route that includes some hills.
Don’t forget to stretch before walking to help prevent injuries and improve flexibility and mobility. In addition to adding regular aerobic activities like walking or cycling, older adults can benefit from strengthening and balance exercises. Learn more about becoming more physically active by following this link to the National Institute on Aging website. As always, talk with your doctor first before starting any new exercise program. Happy National Walking Day!