With many areas of the nation still in lock-down mode due to Covid-19, many people are not getting out to exercise. More than 60% of adults do not achieve the recommended amount of physical activity, and 25% of adults are not physically active at all. This only gets worse with age. With this in mind, let’s start walking, which is one of the best exercises for brain health. If you walk in an area where you will bump into others wear a mask and practice social distancing measures. If you can take a walk in the woods or by a body of water, all the better. There is nothing like smelling the pine trees or salty water to soothe the “sole.”
There are hundreds of research studies that show how walking can help prevent disease. In the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) one study showed that walking helped prevent mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease. The study looked at a large group of men over several years and noted that those men who walked less than a quarter-mile a day were almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia as compared to men who walked more than two miles daily. In another study, women who walked a leisurely one and a half hours a week did better on tests of mental function than less active women.
How do you get started on your walking program? The key is to start slowly, include proper hydration, and listen to your body. Continue to challenge yourself. If you start off walking for 10 to 15 minutes a day three days a week, try building to 20-30 minutes a day, then try to walk 4-5 days a week. Ideally, you should work toward a goal of walking for one hour a day, 6-7 days a week. You can also include more hills in your walk, or gradually increase your rate of speed. Another way to challenge yourself is to purchase a pedometer.
Recently I found an old pedometer, installed a new battery, and shoved it in my pant pocket where it started registering my steps. The Japanese developed the first electronic pedometer and named it “manpo-kei” literally meaning “10,000 steps meter”. The average adult averages between 3,000 and 6,000 steps a day, which is far short of the optimum fitness goal of 10,000 steps a day. Not only does my pedometer register how many steps I have taken that day but also my aerobic steps, total distance, and the calories I expended.
For the last month, my husband, dog and I have been diligent about getting outside everyday, rain or shine, for our daily three-mile nature walk. So, if you are feeling like you are suffering from cabin fever during lock down and want to feel healthy, just remember the road to good health starts with your decision to take the first step!
Dr. Lisa Cowley, a holistic chiropractor and nutritional counselor of 25 years, along with her husband, Victor Westgate, a high school educator of 34 years, are authors of Pack Lightly: Making Sense of the Second Half of Your Life.