Growing up, I went on long walks with my family. My parents still walk frequently, and for quite long distances, five to ten miles. When we are all together, we always head out on a walk together: parents, grandparents, children, spouses and siblings, dogs – whoever wants to come along.
As a kid, I walked to school, home for lunch, back to school, then home again at the end of the day. This was simply what we did, but now I look at all the benefits we didn’t even know we were getting. It gave us time for talking and getting exercise and spending time in the fresh air, all healthy endeavors that we now seek to schedule into our lives.
Dr. Andrew Weil, a mentor to me, is also an advocate of walking. Humans are meant to walk, he reminds us, and emphasizes the importance of cross-patterned movement, i.e., moving our arms and legs in opposite directions, such as how an infant moves when she learns to crawl. This type of movement correlates to electrical activity which stimulates brain and muscle development throughout our lives. Walking helps to reduce anxiety – have you ever noticed how things become clearer after a walk?
A good goal is to walk at least 30 minutes a day (this can be broken up into several shorter walks). For weight loss, increase the time to 60 minutes a day at a faster tempo. If you’re looking for aerobic fitness, try walking at a fast pace (where conversation is challenging) for 20 – 30 minutes several days a week. To intensify a walk, add in hills or use nordic poles.
Studies show that walking 30 minutes a day over your lifetime can lower the risk of breast and colorectal cancer, lower the recurrence of breast cancer, reduce clinical depression and dementia, prevent osteoporosis, and improve mental and cardiovascular health. Walking acts as a general tonic for digestive system, often alleviating constipation. Because of its gentle nature, walking keeps your joints, bones, and muscles healthy with little risk of overuse or a repetitive motion injury. That’s a lot of benefit from an activity that is free and requires no equipment.
Because I loved our walks growing up, I looked for a place to raise my family that was walkable with plenty of sidewalks, mixed land use, trails, and pathways. Now my family and I head out as often as we can, exercising together in nature, and absorbing vitamin D to boot.
If you are in the Pittsford area, a new program is starting that combines walking with receiving expert medical advice. The Walk with a Doc program starts April 19th and runs most Fridays from 8:30 to 9:30 AM along the canal path. You’ll walk with an Integrative Physician who will answer questions along the way. Meet at 8:30 next to Aladdin’s in Shoen Place along the canal (please arrive a few minutes early to sign in). I hope to see you there!
- Most Fridays starting April 19th
- Meet at Aladdin’s in Shoen Place
Startwalkingnow.org | walkwithadoc.org | weilbeing.com | beactiverochester.com