Cohen Medical Associates is a family medical center and research center located in Delray Beach, FL.
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The Walking Cure for What Ails You

Our Delray Beach primary care doctors are always happy when we can recommend non-drug solutions to physical problems.

And one of the best prescriptions we can offer is to suggest walking more. This physical activity is free, can be done anywhere at any time, with no special equipment, and by anyone who is ambulatory.

Walking requires no training (you’ve been walking since you were a toddler, right?), can be done alone or in groups, and confers an amazing number of benefits.

What walking can do for you

According to a report in Harvard Health, “Walking can have a bigger impact on disease risk and various health conditions than just about any other remedy that’s available to you.”

A March 2020 study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that the more steps people over age 40 took, the lower their risk of death from all causes.

Researchers compared those who walked 4,000 steps a day with those who walked 8,000 steps a day and found the latter group lowered their risk of mortality by 51 percent, compared to the former group. And the more participants walked, the lower their mortality risk: 12,000 steps a day were linked to a 65 percent lower risk of death when accounting for the subjects’ health conditions.

Following is just a partial list of some of the conditions that can be alleviated by regular walking:

  • lower blood pressure and cholesterol
  • better memory
  • lower body mass index (BMI)/healthier weight
  • stronger bones and muscles
  • lower fasting blood sugar (glucose)
  • improved balance and coordination
  • lower risk of cataracts and glaucoma
  • improved sleep/lower risk of insomnia
  • reduced stress
  • lower risk of depression/anxiety
  • reduced pain and disability from osteoarthritis
  • improved immunity

Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says that regular walking (as with other forms of exercise) is “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.”

Not only that, but studies have shown that because walking is a low-impact activity, it has one of the lowest injury rates of any form of exercise.

Any walking is worth it

As with most forms of exercise, some is better than none. Harvard Health reports that walking for just 2.5 hours a week, or 21 minutes a day, can cut your risk of heart disease by 30 percent.

And a 2014 University of Utah study found that for every minute of brisk walking that women did throughout the day, they decreased their risk of obesity by five percent.

You don’t need to do power walking to reap the benefits of this easy form of exercise, either. In the JAMA study mentioned above, the benefits of walking showed that no matter how many steps per minute the participants did.

You can walk a treadmill at home, climb stairs in your house, or stroll around your neighborhood. You’ll still reap the same benefits.

Studies have found that even those who are recovering from surgeries or chemotherapy can recover faster when they walk as well as they are able, which may not be much at first.

It’s never too late

Even if you’ve avoided exercise religiously, we hope we’ve convinced you to take up regular walking for your health. No matter how old you are, you can benefit from this simple activity.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Start with comfortable shoes. They don’t have to be specifically made for athletics. They should offer support and not raise blisters when you’re walking. Sandals or flip-flops aren’t recommended. You’ll want proper arch support, along with flexible soles to cushion your feet.
  • Take it slowly. You don’t have to walk for miles. Start by parking farther from stores and walking the extra distance. Then set a goal of five or ten minutes a day, and increase it if you have the time. Try to schedule regular times to walk until it becomes a habit.
  • If you’re the competitive type, use a fitness tracker to keep track of your steps throughout the day. Most experts recommend 10,000-15,000 steps a day for maximum fitness, but again, any walking is better than none.
  • Once you’re walking more, you can either increase the distance or the pace. But remember, faster doesn’t necessarily mean better. If the simple act of walking becomes a chore, you’re more likely to fall back into your old sedentary ways. This could lead to missing out on all the benefits of walking more.

If you have health issues or are recently recovering from surgery or other medical treatment, please check with us before beginning any regular form of exercise.

1 Comment
  • Imagine being 73 years of age and having absolutely no health or weight issues? Hard to imagine in today’s world, isn’t it? And yet, I am a living testimony that aging is not synonymous with aches and pains nor a reduction in physical activity or overall quality of life. My remarkable story of fitness began 40 years ago.
    Although I was not overweight, at age 33 I felt as though I was not in the best physical condition of my life. I’d always been athletic but as each of my 4 children were born there was less time for me to take care of myself. On Jan. 20, 1982, after watching the Michael Douglass movie, Running, the previous evening, I was inspired to begin my journey of regaining muscle tone and building endurance. My first workout consisted of running one mile. Although it took some effort, I thoroughly enjoyed it and returned to the pavement the following morning. Every day thereafter, I persisted in my quest for fitness by increasing my mileage. Eventually I began competing in 5 &10 K races and worked my way up to a half marathon. When an undiagnosed medical condition nearly sidelined me (my doctor told me I’d have to give up running), I decided to switch to power walking and continue my quest.
    Power walking quickly became my passion. Eventually I found myself rising each morning at 3:30 AM and walking 12-15 miles per day. I was asked to join a team of competitive race walkers and in 1994 and 1995 I completed and won medals in 2 marathons, becoming one of the top female race walkers in my division in the country. Little did I realize that an even greater accomplishment awaited me.
    On Jan. 20, 2022 I will celebrate my 40th anniversary of power walking every single day – yes, every single day. I have not missed even one in 40 years. I’ve had broken bones (including my left foot – thank God for crutches!), surgery, have walked in snow storms, in temperatures below zero and above 100 degrees. I am proud to say I’ve collectively logged over 160,000 miles! (That’s not a typo.) That’s the equivalent of traversing the circumference of the Earth 6 times! I know of no other person in the world who can make this claim.
    I will be 73 years of age in Feb. 2022 and have maintained my ideal body weight my entire adult life. I have zero health issues and am energetic and fit enough to keep up with my 16 grandchildren. I have also expanded my fitness routine to include push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, curls, squats, lunges, rowing, yoga, an inversion table, and more.
    Although I walk fewer daily miles now, I’ll continue my routine for the remainder of my life. I can’t stop myself from getting older but I can certainly prevent myself from ever getting old and I have every intention of doing precisely that!
    I hope my story inspires people everywhere to get and stay fit regardless of their age. It needn’t be as extreme as mine but here are a few tips to ensure that individuals can live long, powerful, healthy, and active lives:
    1. Find an activity(s) that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, you’ll make excuses not to continue.
    2. Change things up periodically if you’d like. It’s ok to add or modify your routine; be creative with your workout.
    3. Make certain you’re getting a total body workout. Biking is great but you have an upper body as well that needs attention.
    4. Set up and adhere to a work-out schedule. Choose the days and times that work and be consistent.
    5. Connect with others who share your passion for fitness. Support, but don’t compare yourself to, each other.
    6. Remember, fitness is not a fad. It must be a lifetime commitment, just as brushing your teeth or eating healthy every day is. Fads don’t work; lifestyle changes do!
    I may get older each day but I will never be old. Here’s to staying young as you age!

    January 6, 2022 16:01
    reply
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