Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's Spring, Take a Hike!

It's Spring, Take a Hike!


It's Spring, Take a Hike!
Mar 30, 2008 - 9:06:01 AM

( - I'll say it again, "Take a Hike" literally, of course! Spring is here, and many of us are ready to take our exercise outdoors even though some of us have annoying allergies as we last discussed. Walking is one of the most beneficial forms of "daily activity" and type of exercise that we can do for our health which carries the least risk of injury allergies or not! Just about all of us can do it; we all know how to do it; we can do it almost everywhere, anytime, and as a form of exercise it offers us lots of variety. What more can we ask for? Well we can add one more element to this equation right now, we can view nature and the budding trees in their splendor! This week let's take a look at a few more reasons to take a hike to get us in shape this season.

Do we:
Want to lose weight? Then let's add more walking to our daily life activity. We can break it up (no torture here) by adding an extra block, an extra flight of stairs, a longer walk to the car. Do we live in an urban area? Let's go to the store instead of ordering in! Play golf? Let's walk instead of riding the golf cart. Do we have a problem with evening snacking? We don't have to make it a trail hike, we can take a walk anywhere! Walking at a moderate pace burns calories and if we walk for longer periods of time even slowly, we will burn more body fat. Our body uses fat for its slow- burning energy requirements. Think a few calories here and there won't add up? Think again! An extra 100 calories a day burned by walking can amount to a 10 pound weight loss in one year without really trying or doing anything else differently (as long as we don't eat more, of course).

Want to increase cardiovascular health & capacity? Walking & hiking can be an intense form of aerobic exercise even for those of us who are very fit. In one study, Olympic race walkers were able to keep up with runners aerobically when they were tested during running, but the runners did not fare as well aerobically when asked to race walk. This means that there is a cross-over training effect for cardiovascular fitness for race walking but not necessarily for running. While I'm not suggesting we all take up race walking (I did try a slow version once myself, and it's hard!), we can walk fast; we can walk uphill, and most of us can last longer walking versus running! Lastly, at moderate to fast speeds, exercise walking has a higher metabolic demand than jogging especially if we use our upper body to help propel us along.

Want to save our joints? Exercise walking is also safer and gentler on our joints than other forms of aerobic exercises. It is associated with fewer injuries than running because our feet hit the ground with much less impact. So, for those of us who cannot tolerate high impact exercise, walking is a safe bet. But, for those of us who can tolerate high impact, let's try a fast paced walk as an alternative to running just one running day a week, to help save our joints. In fact, walking is so safe for the majority of us, that even those of us with a history of arthritis, flat feet, bunions, etc., can begin a walking program with a few special instructions & training from a sports therapist.

Want to Manage Stress? We can take a walk during our lunch break, after our evening meal, during a heated debate with a loved one (yes, we can!). We can take a quick walk in the morning to get our blood circulating (good for our brain), and we can even take a walk around the block as a "time out" which can help us manage stress. We don't need special clothing, and we can even walk around a block during cold weather if we bundle up. Fresh air, a few deep breaths, and a break from our indoor environment can bring more oxygen to our brain, give a glow to our skin and give us a few minutes to de-stress! I even suggest to my clients to take a 10 minute walk before compulsively choosing a snack or food they might regret eating.

So, while the technique for fitness walking may be enhanced by a lesson, we can all walk more whether we use it as our formal exercise or not. Walking is listed as a daily activity on our Daily Activity Pyramid, so, let me say it again, let's take a hike or in other words, let's just go for a walk!

Here's to Our Health!