Choosing to Walk: <br> The Importance of Natural Movement

Choosing to Walk:
The Importance of Natural Movement

(Featured image by Peter H from Pixabay)


At one point or another we have all said it

“I’m so tired, I just want to lie in bed for the next three weeks.”

COVID may have more than a few of us prone often but we need to take heed and understand why that inactivity may age us faster. Helen Hayes was right when she proclaimed, “Resting is rusting”.

In 1966 the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School conducted a study. Five healthy men volunteered to spend their summer vacation in bed for three weeks. However when they got out of bed at the end of the trial, researchers found devastating changes that included faster resting heart rates, higher systolic blood pressures, a drop in the heart’s maximum pumping capacity, a rise in body fat, and a fall in muscle strength. In just three weeks the 20 year olds developed many physiologic characteristics of men TWICE their age!

The original subjects were tested again when they were 50 years old. They all had remained healthy, but time had taken its toll on their weight blood pressure and cardiac function. Researchers asked the men to begin an exercise program of a slow but steady endurance training consisting of walking, jogging, and cycling for six months. At the end of the six months the men had lost about 10 pounds each but their resting heart rate, blood pressures and heart pumping abilities had returned to the baseline first established when they were in their 20s!

As the Texas studies show, endurance exercise is the best way to improve cardiovascular function. Its important to point out that this exercise was not crazy over the top intense exercise but rather the key is regular consistent, slow, and steady activity. The Dallas researchers prescribed walking, jogging, and biking for endurance training. However, you can achieve the same results of health from the inside out through swimming, tennis, rowing, dancing and even golf if you leave the cart at the clubhouse.

Exercise is wonderful for health — but to get gain without pain, you must do it wisely, using restraint and judgment every step of the way. Here are a few tips provided by the Harvard Medical School.

    • Get a medical check-up before you begin a moderate to vigorous exercise program, particularly if you are older than 40, if you have medical problems, or if you have not exercised previously. Although treadmill stress tests were once considered an important precaution, they are not necessary for most people who are healthy, even if they are senior citizens. But even if stress tests before exercise are not useful for healthy men, they are mandatory for anyone with heart disease or symptoms that suggest problems.
    • Eat and drink appropriately. Don’t eat for two hours before you exercise, but drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise, particularly in warm weather.
    • Warm up before you exercise and cool down afterward. Stroll before you walk, and walk before you jog. Stretches and light calisthenics are ideal warm-up and cool-down activities.
    • Dress simply, aiming for comfort, convenience, and safety rather than style.
    • Use good equipment, especially good shoes.
    • Exercise regularly. Unless you are ill or injured, try to exercise nearly every day, but alternate harder workouts with easier ones. Give yourself enough time to recover from injuries and illness — and remember that recovery may take longer as you age.
    • Explore a variety of activities to find what suits you best. Variety will keep your muscles fresh and will keep you from getting stale or bored. Build a well-rounded program. Add strength training, stretches, and exercises for balance to your basic endurance exercise. Consider getting instruction or joining a health club.
    • Exercise safely. It makes little sense to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by increasing your risk of accidental injury or death. Adjust your routine in weather that is hot, cold, or wet.
    • Listen to your body. Learn warning signals of heart disease, including chest pain or pressure, disproportionate shortness of breath, fatigue, or sweating, erratic pulse, lightheadedness, or even indigestion. Do not ignore aches and pains that may signify injury; early treatment can often prevent more serious problems. Do not exercise if you are feverish or ill. Work yourself back into shape gradually after a layoff, particularly after illness or injury.

Exercise is worth the endeavor to prevent stroke, cancer, and diabetes. Regular consistent exercise helps us age slowly, live healthier and stronger lives. Exercise may not be the fountain of youth but it is a refreshing drink of spirit and life!

Carissa Figgins

Executive Director,
Community Strong

(Image by congerdesign from Pixabay)