Walking with Nature
Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake. ~Wallace Stevens
Now that spring has sprung here on the East Coast of the U.S., I’m trying to get outside and walk as much as possible. I find that combining my enjoyment of walking and love for nature is one of the most satisfying ways to practice mindfulness. Jim and I live in Ocean Pines, Maryland – a community that offers many awesome ways to enjoy walking with nature.
Yesterday, Jim and I took Chucky, our Welsh Terrier, on a walk around one of our community lakes. I made it a point to focus less on my walking and more on what nature was sharing with me. I noticed how the water shimmered under the mid day sun, how the newly budding trees fluttered in the breeze, and how the geese honked to their mates across the lake. I went down to the water’s edge and watched the turtles jump from their twig perches into the water. We explored a little finger of land that extended out into the lake, giving us beautiful panoramic view.
We also encountered other walkers, one with a rambunctious yellow lab puppy that brought back memories of our beloved Titan, another with a young Yorkie-poo that instantly fell in love with Chucky! Not only is walking a great way to walk with nature; it’s a great way to meet your neighbors! I often tease Jim that if I “go first,” all he has to do is take Chucky for a walk and he’ll have a new wife in no time!
Today, we went to a nearby park, where the walking paths are made of rubber and wind among stately, old, tall trees (don’t ask me what kind of trees they are!). It’s a great place to walk, especially if one has arthritis like I do. This time, I gave Chucky’s leash to Jim and I went ahead, focusing on walking at a fast, workout pace. I felt sensational after my two laps around the park!
According to the Arthritis Foundation, walking has numerous benefits, especially for those with arthritis. It’s free. It’s easy to do, and it’s easy on the joints. And there’s no question that walking is good for you. Walking is an aerobic exercise; a University of Tennessee study found that women who walked had less body fat than those who didn’t walk. It also lowers the risk of blood clots, since the calf acts as a venous pump, contracting and pumping blood from the feet and legs back to the heart, reducing the load on the heart. Here are some other ways that walking is good for you.
1. Walking improves circulation. It also wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart.
2. Walking shores up your bones. A Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, study of post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40 percent.
3. Walking leads to a longer life. Research out of the University of Michigan Medical School and the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System says those who exercise regularly in their fifties and sixties are 35 percent less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts.
4. Walking lightens mood. A California State University, Long Beach, study showed that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were. Why? Walking releases natural painkilling endorphins to the body.
5. Walking can lead to weight loss. A brisk 30-minute walk burns 200 calories. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropped.
6. Walking strengthens muscles. It tones your leg and abdominal muscles – and even arm muscles if you pump them as you walk. This increases your range of motion, shifting the pressure and weight from your joints and muscles – which are meant to handle weight – helping to lessen arthritis pain.
7. Walking improves sleep. A study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that women, ages 50 to 75, who took one-hour morning walks, were more likely to relieve insomnia than women who didn’t walk.
8. Walking supports your joints. The majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply. It gets its nutrition from synovial or joint fluid that circulates as we move. Impact that comes from movement or compression, such as walking, “squishes” the cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area.
9. Walking improves your breath. When walking, your breathing rate increases, causing oxygen to travel faster through bloodstream, helping to eliminate waste products and improve your energy level and the ability to heal.
10. Walking slows mental decline. A study of 6,000 women, ages 65 and older, performed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that age-related memory decline was lower in those who walked more. The women walking 2.5 miles per day had a 17-percent decline in memory, as opposed to a 25-percent decline in women who walked less than a half-mile per week.
11. Walking lowers Alzheimer’s risk. A study from the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville found that men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who walked less.
12. Walking helps you do more, longer. Aerobic walking and resistance exercise programs may reduce the incidence of disability in the activities of daily living of people who are older than 65 and have symptomatic OA, shows a study published in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management.
So, fellow folks over 60, time to get walking, preferably with nature!