One Step Beyond: Moving More, at Any Age, Brings Along Big Benefits
Expensive home equipment or intimidating fitness machines along a mirrored wall – these things are not necessary for most of us to experience the benefits of exercise.
The best fitness routine is something you probably started using when you were about 9 to 12 months old: walking.
Good old-fashioned walks not only let you clear your head, they make almost every system in your body better off. But as a nation, we Americans are omitting this classic chestnut in the chest of pastimes. Maybe today you can take that first step.
“Walking every day is a great way to reduce your weight and your risk of heart disease, and it’s true that people who get out and walk more will see additional benefits from this activity,” said Chad Thury, DO, Avera Medical Group family medicine physician. “One of the best parts about walking is it requires no special equipment and it’s something anyone of any age can add to their daily routine.”
While walking used to be more common – people walked to work, or to public transportation to reach work – that part of American life, especially in rural areas, has gone the way of the horse-drawn carriage. But it doesn’t have to be gone for good.
“Anyone looking to get walking back into their life should start slowly, but remember, every bit can help and you don’t need to set aside hours of your day to do miles and miles,” Thury said. “The more you can do, the better. Everyone knows, deep down, that a good walk is good for them. It’s just a matter of putting it on your to-do list and then getting up and going for it.”
More folks, of all age groups, are doing it. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that more than 6 percent of Americans had returned to the walking path during the last decade. The goal should be 30 minutes of walking each day for five days a week, according to the same study. Yet only half of people hit this minimum guideline.
Finding Ways to Make Walks Work
“There’s a growing sense of activity’s importance in our overall health, and much like tobacco use and blood pressure, folks are starting to realize without a bare minimum of activity, they will experience a decline in the quality of their lives,” said Thury. “Physicians like to remind folks that walking is like a medicine that everyone knows about, but not enough of us take. You can find time to do this, and it’ll improve your mood, help you fight against chronic conditions like diabetes and remain independent longer in your life.”
In families, if one member can lead the group for a walk, everyone benefits. Go walking with your kids or grandkids. Walk the dog, or if you don’t have one and live in the country, stride to the section line and back. Each step helps.
“Step-tracking programs are on a lot of smart phones, already built in, and for some folks, that’ll help them to see progress and get moving,” Thury said. “Walking just 10 minutes a day can be enough to make a change. Almost anyone can start with that. The nicest thing about it is you don’t even have to think of it as exercise. If that helps you to get moving, go for it.”