Why Walk?


From the Healing Bridge Physical Therapy

Fall 2001 Newsletter

by Nancy Hartung, PTA

Walking is probably the easiest, most natural movement pattern that our body knows. It is, after all, our primary means of self locomotion after age one or two. Most of us can successfully begin and continue a walking program with relative ease. Additionally, it does not require expensive equipment or a membership. One does not even have to drive anywhere to “get there.” It offers an outdoor experience that can delight our eyes and ears as well as our bodies. Walking provides a gentle rhythm and a change of scenery that can ease the mind and even become meditative. It provides an escape from our daily stresses.

Beyond the positive and immediate mental/emotional benefits, walking does much for the body. Quite simply, walking is wellness and health. It gently increases our heart rate to improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance. It improves circulation to all body parts; organs, joints, muscles and brain. It therefore improves nutrition to the body’s structures, speeding healing and decreasing risk of malfunction.

Increased heart rate for a sustained period (20 minutes or more) can enhance the body’s chemical production that provides for pain relief and a sense of well being. Walking feels good because it actually stimulates production of the “feel good” chemicals in our bodies.

If the physical and mental attributes are not enough, there’s more! Walking with a partner or group provides a window of social time in our busy lives. What better way to visit a friend and gain fitness all at one time? It’s good for everybody. You may just walk and talk your way into feeling great!

Begin your walking in a way that feels good to you. Start at 10 to 15 minutes if you are a beginner. Work up to 20 minutes after two weeks and then gradually up to 30 minutes. A walking program 4-5 days a week is ideal, but even 3 days a week provides great benefits.

Wear appropriate clothing to be as comfortable as possible. Take a jacket or sweater you can tie around your waist after you warm up. Shoes are very important. They should be lace up, supportive walking shoes that fit comfortably and provide good cushioning. If you walk a lot, you’ll want to get new shoes every so often as the “cushioning” begins to wear out or flatten.

Walk where it feels good; around the neighborhood, on the canal road, on the school track or on a hike. Be sensible about your tolerance to uneven terrain or cement. You may need to start on a cushiony track at one of the schools and assess how it feels. In the winter, the malls are available and are an excellent way to avoid the weather and maintain great health.

Why walk? It feels great and does great things for mind, body, spirit and friendships