Walking - One of the best ways to exercise- especially now

Exercising, and subsequently boosting your immune system, has never been more important than during a pandemic. As long as it’s safe to go outdoors, walking is an excellent way to get in shape. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Multiple studies show walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent and cut the risk of dying by 32 percent. Walking and other moderate exercise programs also help protect against dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, colon cancer, and even erectile dysfunction.” Some of the advantages include:

•    Maintaining a healthy weight
•    Improving your mood
•    Strengthening bones and muscles
•    Easing joint pain
•    Increasing energy
•    Improving balance and coordination
•    Boosting your immune system
•    Lowering risk of stroke and heart attack

Follow your local health guidelines
As we’ve all observed during the pandemic, county laws and recommendations have changed, depending on the severity of the COVID-19 infection and positivity rates. Regardless of daily modifications, always remember to wear a mask, physically distance and wash your hands frequently.

If you’re able to go outdoors, take advantage of the desert’s winter climate to enjoy moderate temperatures and sunshine. Need to stick close to home? Take a stroll in your neighborhood. Able to venture out more? The Coachella Valley has a wealth of hiking trails and parks, perfect for a change of scenery and more robust exercise. 

If you would like to transform a casual stride into a better cardio-challenging walk, consider a few changes.

•    Walk with your head up, looking forward
•    Keep shoulders back and neck relaxed
•    Swing your arms freely (if not using walking poles)
•    Consider using walking poles for balance
•    Focus on your core, stomach muscles slightly tightened and back straight
•    Walk heel to toe

Clothing and shoes
For walking, wear sturdy, non-slip walking shoes or tennis shoes. If your feet tend to pronate, consider buying shoes with a stiff, inner side layer to help prevent pronation. Wear comfortable clothing and if you walk at night, include bright tops or a light jacket with reflective tape for greater visibility. Always carry identification, a cell phone and water. Remember to wear sunscreen and a hat during the day. 

Walking poles are a great addition to a daily walk. Working your arms, shoulders, chest and upper back muscles, walking poles can turn walking into a full-body workout. They also improve balance and stability, help the walker maintain better posture and may take some pressure off of the lower back, hips and knees. 

Begin slowly before increasing speed
Begin your walk slowly, allowing your body to warm up. This is true of any form of exercise. Increase your speed, paying attention to your balance and how you’re feeling. Each day, gradually increase your duration and speed. At the end of a brisk walk, cool down for several minutes and stretch. Focus on stretching the quadriceps, hamstring and calf muscles. 

As you build endurance, plan a walking route and establish a daily routine, building to 30 minutes or more, at least five days a week. Even 10 minutes of brisk striding, three times a day, is beneficial. 

Before beginning any new exercise regimen, discuss your plans with your primary care physician.

To make an appointment with an Eisenhower Primary Care Physician, call 760.773.1460.