Tame the onset of aging with walking

July 20, 2015 Providence Health Team

If you’re a baby boomer, consider this advice: walk, don’t run. This old-school exercise can help with some of the effects of aging.There’s no potion for eternal youth, but many experts agree that walking is one of the best forms of exercise to help keep you young. It’s simple, inexpensive and low-impact. You don’t need raw athleticism, a gym membership or fancy fitness equipment.

Walking is great for social butterflies and introverts alike. Invite a friend or spouse to join you, or go it alone if you need some “me time.” You can always ramp up your routine over time by increasing your distance, walking faster or carrying light weights.

Consider the benefits

  • Walking, a weight-bearing exercise, increases bone mass. This is especially important for menopausal women who may lose bone density with age.
  • Walking helps control – and may even prevent – heart disease by increasing your body’s protective HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol. This strengthens your heart and helps control your weight.
  • Walking provides a natural high by releasing endorphins, which fight stress and pain. This feeling of contentment can last several hours following a workout. You can extend the effect by walking 20 minutes in the morning, then repeating your workout in the evening.
  • Walking helps you sleep better. It increases blood circulation and body temperature, and it tires your muscles. After walking, your body begins to cool down, which makes you sleepy.
  • Walking reduces constipation by stimulating your muscles and increasing blood circulation.
  • If you have Type 2 diabetes, brisk walking can be an ideal exercise. It may help you control blood-sugar levels and lose weight over time. Those who walk regularly also absorb insulin more efficiently, which can also help people with prediabetes
  • Walking prevents varicose veins by keeping the blood supply from pooling in the lower extremities.
  • Walking fights cellulite by toning your body, tightening muscles and boosting your lymph circulation, which decreases fat accumulation.
  • Walking relieves sinusitis by releasing adrenaline and constricting blood vessels. That, in turn, reduces sinus swelling.

Before you head out

  • Always warm up and stretch.
  • Put on comfortable shoes and clothes.
  • Consider checking your heart rate and compare it to your heart rate after you’ve finished.

Now get going!

Start by briskly walking 30 minutes or more a day, at least three times a week. And don’t let the weather stop you. If it’s hot or rainy outside, head to a nearby mall and walk the long corridors. Wherever you walk, pay attention to what your body tells you. Overdoing it the first time is not only physically taxing, but it also will discourage you from trying it again.  

If you’re itching to begin a walking workout and don’t know how to start, speak with your Providence primary care provider, who will help you get off on the right foot.

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