I have had sporadic exercise routines across the spectrum of my adult life. Too often “life” happened and those were the times my intentional exercising fell by the wayside for a while.
Some time ago I picked it up again. I was having some digestive issues and discovered it felt good to walk. So, one day I went walking. The next day I walked again, just a promenade for about a half mile. At a leisurely pace. Then I walked the next day and I walked the next day, and I kept on walking until I have walked my way right into 2 years of walking and a 30-pound weight loss!!
I thought a few tips for walking, from my experience, may help you start this enjoyable exercise too. Here, I suggest three things that may help you develop your own walking program.
First, Some Benefits of Walking
We know many forms of exercise can benefit us. Walking has some especially good benefits as we age. It is a gentle, soothing, rhythmic, low impact exercise. Some rewards can be:
- increase in core strength which helps with balance
in leg strength
- increase in bone strength
- increase in restfulness and sleep
in positive mental moods
- decrease in high blood pressure
- stabilizing of elevated blood
- strengthening of the heart
- decrease in stress
- control of hunger and cravings
- weight loss
The results of my walking routine have left me with stabilized blood sugar levels, better and deeper sleep, better leg and core strength, and my balance is better. I feel stronger and happier overall. And of course, my weight slid off onto my walking path somewhere along the way, I guess. I wasn’t very intentional about changing my diet but discovered my cravings settled down, so my diet did change to some degree.
Other really important benefits of walking for me are:
- does not require much gear (only a good pair of shoes)
- can happen out of doors (which I love)
- it’s simple
The thing about walking is that it is so simple! It doesn’t require much gear and the rhythm of it is soothing and calming. I don a good pair of shoes, wear good socks, a sports bra, a loose shirt and shorts in bright colors and I am out the door.
I wear the bright colors for safety reasons. Even though there is very little traffic where I walk, I want people to be able to see me. Living in Florida, if I walk later than 7am I wear sun screen to protect my skin. I like to be out the door between 6:30 and 7am.
Tip #1 Listen to Your Body
Like all kinds of exercise, you can grow into walking. I discovered my body enjoys gentle exercise. It is better for me. I don’t do well at this age getting too vigorous, energetic, and demanding of my body. The gentle, steady movement of walking is just right.
I moved from a one-half mile leisurely promenade into a longer mile, then a mile and one-half and soon stepped it up to two miles a day. I was enjoying it. From there I started taking a soup can to carry in each hand (10 oz) as I walked.
That felt really good for my upper body. Within two weeks I moved that up to carrying a two-pound weight in each
I did not start out planning to upgrade my routine. I simply started walking. As I listened to my body, I found I wanted to walk more. I noticed my arms wanted to carry something. Then I noticed I was leaning forward while walking. As I intentionally straightened up, it put me closer to a power walking position so, I read up on it, tucked my tummy in even more firmly and used my thighs more. My posture has improved considerably and I feel more able to hold my body.
At this point I could feel numerous body changes, such as, my balance getting better because my tummy and thighs were getting stronger. My arms and shoulders felt tighter. But the most amazing thing was that I had started losing weight. I also noticed improvement in my mental acuity, clarity, and focus. These changes were huge for me, especially the mental clarity and focus. I was also sleeping better and longer and waking up refreshed. Walking was on it’s way to becoming a good and enjoyable habit and I loved it.
Today I regularly walk 3 miles a day and I have shifted to Power Walking, which is a more controlled, body-engaging walk. Again, I do it rather gently, not as vigorously as I might have earlier in my life. I still carry two pound weights and, of course, there is the 30 pound weight loss. My A1C, a measure of blood sugar over time, is in a great place, ( I was previously borderline diabetic), my cholesterol and labs other labs are beautiful, and best of all I feel marvelous! My digestive issues are also better.
Tip #2 Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
Even though I carry my cell phone with me in a little crocheted pouch pinned onto my shorts, I never wear earplugs or listen to music. I engage everything around me as I go. The bird songs are incredible, the turtle crossing the path captivates me. The reflections of the small lake are blue as the sky. The Spanish moss hanging from the steady old
oaks flutters with the breezes, and my favorite royal palms stand regally as I walk by them every morning.
I don’t want to miss any of this by distractions from my earplugs. You may decide you want to use them, but secretly, I hope you too will engage all you’re surrounding when you walk and leave the earplugs at home.
Tip #3 Enjoy Your Walk
This may be the most important tip for walking I can leave with you. It certainly is what under girds my walking routine. Since I no longer demand so much of myself physically, I enjoy it more.
For sure, I don’t focus on myself when I am walking. I pay attention to what happens in my body, but I do not focus on myself. There is a difference.
Walking can release endorphins (feel-good hormones) in the brain and help support good mental health. In fact, when I was in active practice (mental health counselor) I had several clients
who managed their mild depression with a regular walking routine.
So when you walk, allow your mind and senses to take in everything around you. Choose healthy, sustaining, and kind thoughts that support your life and your world. Enjoying the walk is key to the evolving of what your exercise routine will look like.
So Come Along With Me
Walking in some ways has changed my life. It is now part of my “rule of life,” habits that I intentionally try to maintain on a regular basis. It has steadied me, brought balance to my life, helped me get to a healthy weight, nurtured my brain and body and calmed my sleeping. There have been physical, spiritual, and mental benefits to this simple exercise for me.
Why not try a little promenade? You may be surprised where it takes you!
When the weather does not accommodate walking outside, which is not often, I go to our exercise room at the condominium club house and walk on an ‘Elliptical,” which is also a very gentle and rhythmic body movement. It is especially gentle on my knees. These machines are available for in-home use.
Wishing you all health of body, mind, and spirit!
Please leave any comments you may have below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.