Insight News

Feb 13th

Walking Your Way to Better Health, Wealth and Well-Being

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Winter Walkoff 2012 Promotes a Walk a Day During February

One of the easiest, safest and least expensive forms of exercise and getting around doesn’t require a fancy gym membership, designer clothing or special training. In fact, you’ve been doing it practically your entire life: it’s walking!

From your first steps as a child, you’ve known that walking is good for you. Not only does walking offer a host of health benefits, it also can provide several additional advantages – from saving you cash and enhancing your relationships to boosting your brain power and mood.

We’ve long known that walking boosts health. New research shows a significant risk reduction for developing type 2 diabetes among those who regularly walk briskly. In other studies, walking has been shown to reduce the pain of fibromyalgia, reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, and help you better manage your weight.

An 18-year study of 46,000 men and 15,000 women showed a 40% lower risk of developing a stroke among those who regularly walked.  And women who walk regularly after being diagnosed with breast cancer have a 45% greater chance of survival than those who are inactive, according to a prominent oncology journal.

Walking can help you save on gym costs. On average, gym memberships run $40-$60 per person per month. The cost of a single month of gym membership could easily pay for a new pair of sturdy, comfortable walking shoes.

Walking can also help cut your medication costs, not to mention the potential side effects of many medicines. Data from the National Walkers’ Health Study found that those who took the longest weekly walks were more likely to use less medication.

Walking with someone for a half-hour – a spouse, friend, child or other family member – naturally leads to conversation. Those who regularly walk with others report higher levels of satisfaction with their personal relationships. And if you’re a dog owner, that’s a great reason to take a walk. You’ll find your role as “top dog” in your home solidified if you regularly take your four-legged friend for regular strolls.

Need a mental boost? Go for a walk! A recent study of 278 midlife African-American women showed that those who regularly walked were significantly less depressed than those who did not. Similarly, an Italian study tracked 749 older adults who had been identified as experiencing memory problems, and found that those who expended the most energy walking had a 27% lower risk of developing dementia than their less energetic counterparts.

Considering our mild winter so far in the Twin Cities – one of the 10 warmest winters on record – February is shaping up to be a great month to walk. The Winter Walkoff 2012 campaign, through the end of February, specifically urges Twin Cities residents to get outside and walk at least once a day. Those who commit to the campaign are encouraged to post about it on Twitter, at #winterwalkoff.

We’re fortunate that the Twin Cities metro area is primarily pedestrian-friendly. Of the nation’s 52 largest metropolitan areas, we are among the nation’s safest spots for pedestrians, according to Transportation for America. And indeed, three out of four Twin Cities residents keep walking year-round, according to Bike Walk Twin Cities.

Yet even those who regularly walk do not typically walk enough to fully enjoy its ample benefits. The daily walking goal cited by most health experts is 10,000 steps – about 5 miles of walking, or approximately the equivalent of exercising vigorously for 30 minutes.

To help you track your walking, buy an inexpensive pedometer for less than $20, and commit to wearing it each day. You’ll be surprised by how much more you’ll likely walk once you’re aware of your daily step-taking.

Need some ways to add more steps to your days? Walk, rather than drive, to run errands. Forty percent of the places we go are 2 miles or less. If you’re reasonably fit, you can cover 2 miles in less than 40 minutes.

Additionally, consider taking the stairs, instead of the elevator. Get up to change the channel or use the phone. Purposely park farther from your destinations. Incrementally, you’ll be adding steps to your days, miles to your months, and likely years to your life!


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