Health Benefits of Social Walking
Your new year’s resolutions may have worn off a bit by now, but it is never too late to keep in shape and improve your health and fitness. One great way to accomplish your health goals this year is to adopt a walking routine.
There are so many health benefits to walking. Walking regularly can help you:
- Improve your blood pressure, heart rate and lung function.
- Decrease feelings of loneliness and depression.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Build stronger bones and muscles.
- Boost your self-esteem and mood naturally.
- Enhance your social life and your feelings of connectedness to others.
The more you walk, the greater these benefits will be. If you are just getting started, here are some great tips from my Ochsner colleague Robbie Banta, PT, DPT on how to begin a walking program.
According to GetAmericaStanding.org, we spend about 10 hours each day sitting down. A sedentary lifestyle is bad for the heart, and lack of exercise is strongly correlated to an array of heart disease conditions. Walking is a low-impact and high-yield activity that some physicians believe is one of the most underrated forms of exercise.
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During the coronavirus pandemic, the safest way to exercise outdoors is either individually or with members of your immediate household. If you have a partner, children or a roommate, encourage them to join you in your walking goal! Having a buddy will keep you accountable, especially on days when you feel less motivated to get out and walk.
Depending on your neighborhood and community, you may also be able to practice social distancing while walking with others. To practice social distancing, people must keep a minimum of 6 feet of distance between themselves and other people who are not members of their immediate household. Ensure that you are keeping at least 6 feet apart from one another while wearing a secure face covering and avoiding all physical contact. Parks with walking paths or trails are generally a safer option than walking in the street.
You also don’t necessarily need to be physically together with your walking buddy to walk socially! Call a friend or loved one on the phone during your next outing or challenge them in a remote exercise competition. Wearable health devices like Fitbit offer fun ways to compete against your friends and family in daily or weekly step challenges.
And if you’re interested in tapping into some new technology to begin your fitness journey, here are the top health and wellness apps recommended by my colleague Peter Seidenberg, MD. Fitness apps are an easy and convenient way to help track your workouts and measure how much progress you are making toward your goals.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 7, 2017.