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    Why Walk?

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | September 19th, 2021

    Why Walk?

    I know I talk about this every year, but I just want everyone to feel as great as I felt this past Sunday. This was the 17th year I participated in the New Albany Walking Classic. It is consider the best walking race in the United States. People from all over the United States participate in this race. You get disqualified if you are caught running. It was a 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) race. I felt such a high after the race that it reinforced what Hippocrates, the Father of Western Medicine, said over 2,000 years ago, “Walking is man’s best medicine”.

    As I mentioned in previous blogs, the high is real. Walking encourages your brain to release endorphins – a neurochemical that boosts your mental health, decreases your sensitivity to stress and pain, and can even make you feel euphoric. Walking is just as effective as running. In a study sited on the American Heart Association website, walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running. Walking does not affect your joints like running.

    According to the American Heart Association a regular walking program can:

    • Keep you fit
    • Improve your cholesterol profile
    • Lower blood pressure
    • Increase your energy and stamina
    • Prevent weight gain

    Walking is an aerobic exercise because it gets your heart rate up, but it is also a weight bearing exercise. While walking you carry your weight which can help with muscle and bone strength decreasing your risk of osteoporosis. You can walk alone to help relieve stress and that is good for your mental health.  You can choose to walk with friends which can be a bonding experience. You may choose to walk with your spouse – a way to exercise together and strengthen the relationship. It can be a family event when you include the children.

    Some tips to get started:

    Invest in a good walking shoe. Walking shoes are running shoes and it would be best to go to a specialty store that will spend time looking at your feet to get the best shoe for you. When it comes to walking shoes, we want function first and style next. You might want a Nike, but Brooks might be better for you. A walking shoe is an investment of about $ 75 – $160 but it will be worth the price because you will have fewer problems with your feet.

    Not all neighborhoods are equal – For some safety is an issue.  If you do not have a safe trail in your neighborhood, you might choose to walk on a school track. You might choose to walk in the mall. Look for opportunities at your job site.

    Avoid walking in the dark –If you have no choice, carry a flashlight and wear light colors so that people will see you.

    Keep yourself well hydrated with water. This is extremely important especially as you become older. Dehydration can set in quickly when you start doing long distance.

    Start slowly. If you want to walk the 10ks or the half/full marathons, you must train for the races. Google walking clubs in your area to see if you can join a club that can help you prepare.

    The great thing about walking is that you can do it at any age and for a lifetime. My time today was better than it was 17 years ago.

    For more information on walking, check out Walking 101 at the American Heart Association website.

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