Sunday, 28 September 2008

Why (not) Walk?

“Happy is the [wo]man who has acquired the love of walking for its own sake!”
- W.J. Holland
(1848-1942), “Walking as a Fine Art,” in The Moth Book:
A Guide to the Moths of North America. 19O3.

I've been taking walks for years and years. Sometimes, I'm enthusiastic about it. Sometimes, I'm not. Regardless of my enthusiasm, I get out of bed each morning and head off around Brookfield Park & local regions for anywhere up to an hour. I do it again some evenings when the mood takes me.

For me, the secret motivator is 'get a dog' (that's Lucy in the picture above). During the 90s, I had Lizzie, my first Labrador. We walked together most mornings until she was aged 8 years and died of cancer. We were up early & accompanied by any number of the four tadpole off-spring & later by my parents' dog, a Shi-Tzu named Poppet who had a yen to be a Paris Hilton handbag dog rather than the family pet who traipsed the neighbourhood in the early mornings. Together, we all marched along Fulham Road in Townsville with Lizzie pulling all the way as she went from fenceline to fenceline saying good morning to her mates. We did a circuit of 7.8km around the Pimlico parks stopping only for a puddle here and there on the way home for Lizzie to get cool on Summer mornings. It was a fabulous start to the day.

Around the same time that Lizzie died, I headed off to France for a year sans enfants. I didn't have a car so continued the trend of walking everywhere I went. I came home fitter than I had been since I turned 30.

Stupidly, I stopped walking in the park for a few years. My first excuse was Alex, my number 2 labrador who hated going for early morning walks (one day I might tell you about the tugs of war we had on the front footpath with his bum planted in the 'no go' position). I used my Leslie Sansone video cassettes instead. They too were fabulous, but I missed the friendly hellos from other walkers, the season changes in people's gardens and even the other pooches.

These days, The MOTH & I have Lucy and Harry. Every morning, we walk to the local park and tramp up and down the pathways, along the creekbeds and home again. The dogs come home hot, happy and ready for a swim. I come home and do the only television watching I do - a Leslie Sansone 5 mile walk which is a combo of two DVDs. It's all part of the plan to get the obligatory 10,000 aerobic steps a day. It's fabulous.

So, why walk?

It's been proven time and time again: Walking is good for you. Walking is a low-intensity cardiovascular workout that is good for your overall health. Not only is it convenient, but there is no need for confusing or expensive equipment - All you need is a pair of good walking shoes and your own two feet!

Benefits of walking include:

Extended longevity and quality of life - Exercising is an important part of living a healthy life. When you exercise you are improving your health and are therefore extending your longevity and quality of life.

Boosted Fitness - Distance-wise, walking burns about the same number of calories as running. Running a mile may be faster, but you'll burn just as many calories by walking it. Plus, walkers get added health benefits from the extra time it takes to walk a certain distance.

Toned muscles - When you exercise, you are working your muscles. The more you work them, the more toned they get!

Weight management - Walking about 2,000 more steps than usual (about a mile) is enough to keep most people from gaining weight

Reduced risk of heart disease - Walking can reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 40% by reducing the following risk factors:
High blood pressure
Obesity and overweight
High levels of triglycerides
Low levels of HDL ("good" cholesterol)

Reduced osteoporosis risk - Not only can walking reduce the risk of osteoporosis, but it can also help decrease the rate of bone loss if you already suffer from osteoporosis. Being physically active from walking strengthens your muscles and bones.

Reduced risk of glaucoma - Walking reduces eye pressure that could lead to glaucoma.

Eased arthritis pain - Joint soreness and stiffness are often relieved by walking.

Reduced stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression - Walking releases endorphins (neurotransmitters that are produced in the brain) which make us feel better and reduce pain.

More clarity and creativity of thoughts - Stepping away from your everyday routines and stressors for a calming walk will help you to think more clearly and creatively. If you're stuck on something (a paper from work or school, or an emotional rut), take a break and get outside for a walk. You'll be surprised how much it could help.

Connection with nature - Another stress reducer! For me, a walk in Brookfield park each morning is essential.

More time to spend with friends, family and pets - That way everyone gets "together time," and needed exercise! The MOTH & I regularly walk together.

Where do you walk? How often do you go? Get out there, folks. It's worth it!


No comments: