It’s that time of year. Time to shed the winter blahs and make sidewalks and hiking trails your new best friends. May is Walking Month and Brittany Spear, a physical therapist for Texas Health, is pounding the pavement to educate people about the physical, mental, and social benefits of moving their feet.
According to the American Heart Association, sedentary lifestyles are among the gravest health threats today. Research has found too much sitting can be a silent killer, as it’s linked to higher risks for a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease.
Spear says one of the best ways to stay healthy and keep your joints working is to make it a daily habit to get off the couch or out from behind the desk to get your blood pumping and your body moving.
“It takes about 200 muscles to walk, so doing it consistently through the day adds up to a lot of exercise,” Spear said. “It’s a fun and easy way to boost your health and happiness.”
Walking can help improve your mood by increasing blood flow to the brain. It keeps muscles strong and more limber, which makes it easier to avoid and recover from injury. It can also strengthen the immune system, alleviate depression and prevent high blood pressure and heart disease. That all adds up to a longer, healthier life.
To make a walking habit stick, Spear recommends finding like-minded friends willing to tie up their laces and join you on your daily jaunt. If no one comes to mind, she says walking groups are popular and easy to find. Sharing the experience of walking downtown or through nature trails is a great way to make friends. Or, you can make it a family affair and hold one another accountable. Some businesses even have walking meetings so the physical activity boosts everyone’s brain power.
If time is an issue, Spear suggests getting up from your desk every hour to walk around for a minute or two. If you’re going it alone, a walk through town or a neighborhood park is a perfect opportunity to listen to music, think things through, or just zone out and meditate.
To get the most out of every opportunity to walk, consider parking farther away when you get to work or stop at the grocery store. You may even avoid a few dings and scratches just because there are fewer cars out there. You might put down those keys and walk to the convenience store, rather than drive. And if you can’t leave the office, consider a desk treadmill to keep your legs moving during that packed office schedule.
Spears says moving naturally can help you lose weight, destress and stay involved in the community. Best of all, the more you enjoy life on foot, the more life you will have to enjoy!