by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Hippocrates once said “walking is man’s best medicine.” This means the health benefits of walking have been known for centuries. One of the greatest things about walking is almost anyone can do it. There is no special training needed or expensive equipment to buy.
There are specific recommendations on how much walking everyone should do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always abide by specific recommendations. There are many things that can interfere with when and how long you can exercise on any given day. Fortunately, walking is the most flexible form of exercise and can be fit into your day by walking to your next meeting or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
The many health benefits of walking have been researched repeatedly. Participating in any regular exercise program reduces the potential for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Because many people are unable or unwilling to participate in a structured exercise program researchers began to look more closely at walking – because the exercise that will benefit you the most is the exercise you already do. Many people use walking as their main mode of transportation, thus in reality are already exercising. Personally, I use my ‘2 shoe caddilac’ to go everywhere.
For those that don’t walk on a regular basis but want to start there are some things you can do to make it a more pleasant experience and prevent injury. Though serious injuries when walking are rare chances are you’ll have some minor aches and pains because you’re using muscles that aren’t used to getting as much use as they are in a regular walking program. It’s also important to wear footwear that fits properly to prevent blisters.
Along with the physical health benefits of walking are the mental health benefits. Walking is an excellent stress management program. People that walk regularly also sleep better. Walking is also a great social event. I know of several groups of friends that meet everyday and walk together. If you don’t care for crowds, walking with a close friend or pet can help to encourage you to go for that walk even when you don’t feel like it. I convinced a friend to drive out to my house so we could walk on the quiet gravel road that i lived on and in less than a week she was telling me how much better she felt. She had more energy, and more patience with her children and husband and she was sleeping better than she had in years. The benefits that can be felt immediately encourages people to stick with the program so even when it was cold and snowing she was at my house dressed and ready to walk.
If you have not been walking on a regular basis and wish to start it’s always a good idea to notify your doctor. As with any exercise program start slow and work your way up. Do not try to walk 5 miles on your first outing because even with properly fitting shoes feet unaccustomed to walking long distances will be sore and develop blisters.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.