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Walking for exercise and stress reduction

photo of active and happy senior couple walking in the parkExercise does not have to be rigorous to be beneficial. A simple walk outdoors can have physical and psychological benefits for folks of all ages.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week. Brisk walking qualifies as moderate to vigorous exercise. It’s best to do something each day of the week, so aim for 30 minutes a day. It’s important to incorporate strength exercises too, and that can be done using a moderately heavy weight that tires your muscles after 12-15 reps. Increasing the amount of exercise you do to 300 minutes a week dramatically improves health benefits.

Dr. Charkawi recommends that his patients follow national guidelines for exercise. He also reminds everyone to be cognizant of the number of hours spent sitting and inactive. Sitting for hours increases the risk of health problems. Track your activity and break it into 10 minute interludes if that works. Staying active should be a major goal as we age. The good news is walking for exercise is flexible and can range from a stroll to a power walk.

Walking has proven health benefits:


Make good health a habit

Spending time outside reduces stress. Studies show that it also improves memory and attention. Walking 20 to 30 minutes several times a week can provide an energy boost and reduce stress.

Walking promotes meditative thinking. Reflecting on life’s problems and concerns during a walk can allow the mind to think creatively and clearly about issues at hand. Walking provides a respite from life’s pandemonium and allows us time to ponder dilemmas and difficulties. A walk can bring refreshing clarity to our lives.

Exercise, such as brisk walking, is known to boost endorphins. These feel-good chemicals can reduce mild depression and raise anyone’s spirits. Don’t stay home feeling bad for yourself. Get outside and take a walk. Studies show it helps.

To increase the benefits of walking, add a friend. Sometimes isolation itself causes stress and enjoying time with others in a social situation like taking a walk can be invaluable. Social situations lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Exercise also helps lower blood pressure. Studies show teens, in particular, benefit from taking a walk with friends. There are so many good reasons to get outside and walk.

Get started today

Fall is a great time to start walking. Locally, the Atlanta Outdoor Club provides unique opportunities for its members to experience nature. Nationally, there are opportunities to investigate such as National Walk in the Forest Day, National Get Outdoors Day, and National Trails Day.

Don’t sit inside and hope for a better mood, more energy, a clearer mind, or less stress. Get outside and walk a little each day.

At John’s Creek Family Medicine, we work with our patients to create healthy lifestyles which include exercise and eating right. The fall is a great time to get a physical and begin a new health regimen.

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