A brisk walk is a lovely way to get aerobic exercise and use up calories as well as one of the best ways to socialize with new or old friends. The benefits of walking are many: It improves cardiovascular fitness, lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of bone loss, and to make it even more appealing, it can be done just about anywhere. Walking has a low incidence of injury and as we have stated more times than we can remember, exercise can improve your quality of life and help you live longer. If you begin to walk early in life, not only will you help to prevent heart disease, but also you will reduce surgeries and hospitalizations later on in life. How can you lose?
Here we are not speaking about a slow stroll. We are speaking of walking briskly at 31/2 miles per hour. We suggest that you pump your arms and take strides that make you work. One recent study found that only 26% of people who walk for exercise did so at a pace brisk enough to achieve the moderate intensity level recommended by the surgeon general. If you are thinking of exercise and have not been on a regular program, then walking is a good bet. We all remember the Cooper Institute Study that said that those who are moderately fit were significantly less likely to die due to heart disease and those who were rated as super fit had the lowest death rates, but this was only a 10% advantage. These findings that moderate exercise has great value came as the rise in physician ordered exercise for their patients has been recently suggested–just read our abstract articles and see the number of calls for exercise being included in patients’ prescriptions for life.
If you decide to walk, why not map out a few one mile routes so you can rotate your views and paths. You can do this by driving the route and using your car odometer. Clock yourself as you begin to walk. Remember you are aiming for “brisk” not “stroll”. That means that you should not be stopping to look at the sights, but that you can carry on a conversation.
As we’ve stated before, we walk, and I do mean briskly. On cold days when it’s dark early in the morning during our exercise time, we go to a hospital affiliated gym and use the treadmill to warm-up. A good 30 minute warm-up at 4 miles per hour gets our muscles ready for the elliptical machine or an aerobics class. In the spring and summer when the sun rises before 6:00 am we are out by the river on one of our mapped routes and walk 3 to 6 miles at 15 minutes per mile. How did we start?
Diabetic or not, we got checked by our physicians to make sure we were healthy enough to exercise. We bought cross trainers that protect our feet and give us lots of support. We each have three pairs so that we don’t use the shoes two days in a row. Make sure you try on these shoes at the store and walk around in them so that you know they are comfortable. We tend to by the same shoes over and over because we know they fit our feet. I know I’ve tried to purchase sale shoes of another brand only to have to give them to charity, so know your feet. We purchased the proper socks. Wear socks that keep sweat away from your feet to prevent blisters.
We wear a pedometer so we can tell how many calories we are burning and exactly how many steps we are taking. We never walk with weights. Body sculpting is done every other day with light weights. If friends are not with us, we use a portable CD player, but never too loud as we keep an eye out for someone who may not have our best interests at heart. We always stretch before and after our brisk walk. Look at our exercise article on stretching to find ones that you need. These will include those for your quadriceps and calf stretches. Hold stretches fro 30 seconds and then stretch deeper.
You can make walking a part of your day by changing habits and by making sure that you know how to include it safely.
- If you travel to work by mass transit, why not get off the bus or subway one stop from your work and hoof the rest of the way? You’ll be surprised how alert you will be when you arrive at your desk.
- If you drive to the market or work, park as far away from the door as you can. Every calorie counts.
- Note the time of day that you cheat on your diet. We all have these times and we diabetics tend to think about food a lot. Put your walking duds on before that time and get out of the house. Pump those arms and take those strides and the refrigerator and pantry will be out of reach.
- Walk to your lunch. A quick walk of 10 minutes to a restaurant or park will make you think twice about what you eat and will give you exercise both before and after lunch.
- Instead of becoming a couch potato after dinner, why not take a walk for a half an hour with the family? It’s a good time to hear about everyone’s day and keep away from the chips and cookies. Remember, diabetic cookies and snacks have calories and fat.
- As we often suggest, get a group of friends together to form a walking group. It’s difficult to disappoint friends, and when you are tired you’ll still get on your gear. By the time you are done, you’ll feel years younger and physically stronger.
- Make sure you drink enough water before, during, and after you exercise. We have an article on drinking water on the site, which you may wish to review. Make sure you drink an extra five ounces of water every 20 to 30 minutes on hot, humid days.
- Don’t think that walking once a week is the answer. Try 40 minutes of brisk walking five days a week. You’ll note that your tension melts away and your weight loss goals will be met.
- Always start off slowly and then build to the time and pace you and your health care team have set for you. You can start two or three days a week at ten minutes per session for the first week and then move on. Remember you should be able to talk and not gasp for breath when you walk briskly.
- Carry an I.D. and a cell phone to feel safe, or carry change for a pay phone if they still have them where you live.
- Make sure you have your medical alert jewelry on. You never know when you will need it. Also carry a snack or glucose tablets. Take your blood glucose level before you begin exercising and then during your exercise if you are concerned about hypoglycemia.
- If you walk at twilight, wear reflective clothing. It’s important that you can be seen, and twilight is a time when our vision can change quickly.
- Make a time and keep it. We know all of the excuses for not exercising so don’t even try. We’ve tried them all and decided some years ago that they make us feel guilty, allow us to feel sorry for ourselves, and never help our diabetes.
- Know the guidelines for exercising when your blood glucose levels are low or high. You are the expert here.
- Reward yourself when you meet a goal. Many of my friends go to weight loss programs and when they meet a goal they treat themselves to something they have wanted but not purchased before. Each 5 pounds means a little better treat. If you walk with a group, plan a monthly healthy breakfast after exercise. You’d be surprised how these meals have changed over the years. We used to see Eggs Benedict on the table, now we see oatmeal and dry toast with fresh fruit.
If all of this did not make you set goals to start a walking program, why not think about why not. We all know that some of us are waiting for a magic pill to make us thin and fit. Dream on for that one. Some of us have difficulty committing to a program to help ourselves. Get a friend who never takes no for an answer and team up with her or him. And finally, there are those out there who feel that exercise is unnecessary. Please talk to you physician and read this site so that we can try to convince you that exercise is a part of the fountain of youth and health. We practice what we preach and exercise every day.
Any questions about walking? Just ask. This one I know, because I do it.