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Walk this way

GET MOVING TO STAY FIT THIS WINTER

Lowcountry living boasts sunshine and mild, sub-tropical weather year-round. With December temperatures averaging 52 degrees, your outdoor walking routine need not be interrupted. Often described as the “perfect exercise,” walking keeps your blood pumping with compelling health benefits. 

Exercise doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective. 

American Cancer Society epidemiologist Alpa Patel says, “Walking is simple, free, convenient, doesn’t require any special equipment or training, and can be done at any age.” 

Cherie Bronsky is director at Hilton Head Island’s Senior Center and organizer of their Jarvis Creek Park Walking Group. 

She believes in the communal aspect of the exercise and that socializing is fundamental.

“It’s good to be out and to be together,” she says. “We do live in a beautiful area, and walking is the easiest and best exercise routine you can do, especially when you retire.” 

A former Sun City Health and Wellness Director and previous fitness facility owner, Bronsky knows the mental and physical value of getting outside and being in the company of friends. 

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Margo Lidster is a faithful Jarvis Creek Walking Group member at the Senior Center, and rarely misses the Thursday 9 a.m. routine. 

“Being outside in the fresh air and meeting new people is a great way to improve your overall health,” says Lidster. “We see and talk about local wildlife and discuss common health issues.” 

She jokes that the only requirement to join them is any ability to walk, and talking is optional if you choose not to do so.

Regular, brisk walking reveals notable body advantages according to mayoclinic.org: better managed high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and stroke. 

So, lacing up those Ryka shoes can indeed improve muscle strength, increase cardiovascular fitness, raise energy levels, boost the immune system, improve balance and reduce stress.

Stepping out for physical body benefits has relevant merit, but don’t discount the psychological. Yes, blood flow to the brain elicits a positive response from your central nervous system, which in turn can improve negative moods, ward off depression and improve self-esteem. Try to walk three days a week for 10 to 30 minutes at a time, per webmd.com. 

According to Harvard Health, after age 30, 3-5 percent of your muscle mass is lost per decade. 

Less muscle means greater weakness and less mobility. More reason to keep moving. Of course, it’s good to check with your physician before starting any new exercise program.

“Walking is usually underrated,” says Bronsky. “In fact, it is one of the best ways to stay fit. It uses every single muscle in the body and most everyone can easily do it.” 

Research from mayoclinic.org showed how creating new muscle and bone cells can occur by tweaking your current walking routine. 

This includes picking up the pace with a brisker cadence, taking hills and steeper inclines, and adding squats or other body weight exercises when pausing during your trek. The statistics as noted in webmd.com conclude that those who walk about two hours per week had a lower risk of death from any cause, compared to those who did no physical activity at all. 

The Mayo Clinic suggests warming up (walk slowly for five to 10 minutes) and cooling down (help muscles cool down with a slow walk of five to 10 minutes). Gently stretch your muscles after you cool down.

FITNESS TIPS

  • 35 percent lower risk of death from respiratory diseases for those who walk more than six hours a week.
  • 30 minutes a day of walking recommended.
  • 10 minutes cool down time.

Sources: webmd.com, mayoclinic.org