Walk for good physical and mental health

Walking is one of the most natural things we do; it’s in us to walk. It’s not only good for your body, but it’s also good for your mental health and wellness.

There’s plenty of evidence that walking is a step in the right direction to improving your overall health. Research shows it can reduce depression and anxiety, and boost mental well-being.

“Walking supports mental wellness, heart health, bone health, leg circulation, gut health, balance, weight loss and general well-being,” says Shauna Lovrod, Physical Therapist at Youville Home.

Where you walk can make a difference. Research shows walking in nature leads to higher levels of relaxation and focus.

“Walking is a very simple way to keep you healthier and happier,” says Dr. Sunail Kumar, Orthopedic Surgeon at St. Mary’s Hospital.

And it’s an activity that can be done on your own or with others. Walking with people can be a way to connect socially, and it can help keep you motivated. It’s also something most of us can do at any age.

“Walking is a good opportunity for families to be outside and be active together,” says Heather Marta, Physical Therapist at Youville Home. “It’s good to start these kind of habits early in life.”

Getting started

Talk with your doctor before starting a walking program if you’re struggling with any chronic health conditions.

“Walking doesn’t cost much. You just put on a good pair of shoes and go walk,” says Sunail.

It may help to pick goals, which can influence where and how you want to walk. Set goals that are reasonable to ensure early success, but make sure they are still challenging.

“Each person has to gauge their own ability based on their unique level of fitness and health,” says Heather. “You’ll see benefits once you get started and stick with it.”

Posture is important when you’re walking, says Heather. Keep your shoulders back and down. Stand tall with an open chest. Tighten your stomach muscles for good posture. Use your arms to help you walk.

Start at a slower pace and then build to a comfortable speed. This allows your muscles to warm up. End your walk by slowing your pace.

Walking your dog

Tips to keep you going

If you make a commitment or plan, you’re more likely to stick with it.

  • Find someone to walk with you.
  • Walk your dog if you have one. Depending on the breed, most dogs need 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily.
  • Join a walking group or clinic.
  • Get a pedometer to track your progress and challenge yourself.

Bad weather tips

“We live in Alberta, so you may not be able to walk outside every day,” says Sunail. “Look for indoor walking options in your community or even a large store like Superstore or Walmart.”

A treadmill is an option that will let you keep moving, no matter the weather outside. With a treadmill, you can choose to read a book or watch something on TV or a tablet.

To get the greatest benefit

Sunail recommends everyone walk for 30 minutes at least five days a week. The Canadian Medical Association’s guidelines suggest getting 25-30 minutes of activity a day to keep you healthy.

“The best walk is a brisk walk at your own pace. You need to have a continuous stride,” says Sunail. “It’s great for your arms and legs, your breathing and your mind. Your mind will actually feel different.”

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