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Walking is the pathway to good health

June 4, 2011
By Kenneth Cobb , The Inter-Mountain

I hope I am not disappointing a large number of my loyal readers because this week's column is mostly about maintaining good health so you can enjoy the outdoors to the maximum.

A recent five-year study of more than 590 middle-aged people found that a higher daily step count is associated to a lower body mass index, lower waist-to-hip ratio, and better insulin sensitivity. Physical activity does not have to be vigorous or done over long periods at a time to improve anyone's health. This is why walking is one of the best physical activities for people of all ages. Walking requires minimal equipment and can be done at any time of the day or night. A person can set their own pace. It is also an outstanding form of exercise for people who are overweight, elderly or those who have not exerted themselves for a long period of time.

It is a well-proven fact that walking for about 30 minutes a day decreases the risk of developing body conditions such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers. A person carries their own body weight when they walk. Some of the benefits from this simple form of exercising include:

- Increased cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness

- Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke

- Improved management of certain body conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint pain and certain types of diabetes

- Stronger bones and improved balance

- Increased muscle strength and endurance

- Reduced body fat.

If it's too difficult to walk for 30 minutes at one time, try doing it in small sessions, like 10 minutes three times a day. Once you get this mastered, try to gradually build up to longer sessions. Vary your terrain to use different sets of muscles. Vary your pace with intervals of brisk walking. If the goal is to lose weight or inches, then most people will have to do physical activity longer than 30 minutes a day. To lose a pound a week, you have to eat less and/or use 3,500 calories a week.

Try making walking a daily routine like taking the stairs instead of using the elevator or park at the far end of a parking lot. Do housework like vacuuming, sweeping and mopping the floor. Cut the grass with a push mower instead of a riding mower. Walk (don't drive) on local trips that are a mile or less. Walk the dog or the neighbor's dog. Try to make walking a daily routine.

While walking is a low-cost and effective form or exercise, remember to wear the right type of shoes and socks. Walking shoes or boots should be comfortable with appropriate arch and heel support. If possible, walk on the grass instead of concrete to help absorb the impact. The wrong kind of shoes or improperly fitted shoes can cause foot or heel blisters and injuries to soft tissue. If you end up getting a foot blister of any type, apply or get medical treatment as soon as possible. Remember, the son of a 20th century president died because of a blister on his foot.

The best way to warm up is to start the walk off slowly and gradually speed up the pace. Drink plenty of fluids before and after each walk. One of the best fruits you can eat after a long walk during the summer months is a big piece of super cold watermelon with no salt. If you are talking a long walk and temperatures are above normal, take some water and a snack of some sort. Be sure to protect yourself from sun exposure with appropriate sunscreen. Let someone know where you will be. Familiarize yourself with the signs of heat exhaustion or stroke. Any good first-aid book or the Internet will have a list of symptoms and treatments.

For a useful purpose to your walks, try hiking to your favorite areas of the woods.

You can scout out the territory for mast and hunting conditions at the same time you are enjoying a nice walk. You might enjoy taking a camera and trying for some nature shots of your usual hunting grounds.

Squirrel season starts Sept. 10 this year. This may seem like a long way off for some of you young nimrods, but it is only 100 days from now and deer seasons are not far behind. This is the time to get in shape for what is my favorite time of the year.



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