A Former Runner’s Take on Walking

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A few years ago at a friend’s house, I met a woman who had lost over 100 pounds. I was clearly impressed and asked her how she did it. Her answer was simple.

“Walking,” she said.

Walking? She went on to elaborate that she just put on her shoes one day and pretty much began walking everywhere. And over the weeks and months, her weight just kept dropping.

At that time, I had been a runner for more than 40 years. I used to run mountain trails, road races, and a quick couple of miles after work just to let off some steam. During my running days, I thought that walking wasn’t enough exercise for me.  However, when this woman described her weight loss, I realized that walking isn’t a better or worse workout than running–it’s just different. In fact, walking actually has a lot of benefits.

Here are some reasons why walking is a really good idea:

It burns calories. If you’re walking to lose weight, however, how much you lose will depend on factors such as your pace, the distance you walk, the terrain you cover, and even your weight.

Walking can lower your risk for heart disease. Just 30 minutes a day is all you need to reap the heart-healthy benefits of a regular walking habit.

Taking a walk after a meal helps to lower your blood sugar. To improve your blood sugar levels overall, taking a short walk after each meal may be more beneficial than going for one long walk each day.

If you have joint pain, walking may actually help. Regular movement helps lubricate your hips and knees. It also builds muscle mass to help support your bones and joints.

Want better immunity? Take up walking. Researchers have found that people who walked for 30 to 45 minutes each day at a medium pace had fewer colds and flus than study participants who didn’t walk.

If you’re prone to varicose veins, walking may help. The action of your leg muscles help to push blood back up from your lower body to your heart, reducing the strain on the veins in your legs.

Can’t sleep? Try walking. It helps to tire you out and calm your mind.

Walking boosts your mood, especially if you’re walking in the woods. A great deal of research that originated in Japan has documented that walking in a natural setting reduces stress, lowers your blood pressure, promotes better immunity, enhances creativity, and helps you recover faster from stressful situations. In addition, you don’t need to run to get a runner’s high. Taking a long walk at a moderate pace can increase the circulation of feel-good endorphins in your brain, the neurotransmitters responsible for the runner’s high effect.

Walking strengthens your legs. This is especially true if you walk on hills or if your route includes some stairs.

Finally, walking is simple to do. It doesn’t require any special equipment, just a comfortable pair of shoes. You don’t need any lessons or special techniques; you can just head out the door and get started. However, if you want to mix it up, the options are endless. You can go for a hike, snowshoe through the deep stuff, do a city walking tour, or use walking poles to get your upper body involved. You can walk with a friend, walk with a dog, or just go it alone.

The simplicity, pace, and benefits of walking have made me a convert. Now, on most days, I head out onto the trails and into the parks near my house. It takes a little longer than a quick run, but my pace means that I don’t miss the red-winged blackbirds when they arrive in the spring or the marsh marigolds blooming under a nearby boardwalk.

Lynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of “Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health.” This article was originally published on AcupunctureTwinCities.com

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