Find Your Strength In Walking

Walking is one the easiest ways to connect with your mind, body, and soul During these difficult times, I have found that I appreciate walking more than I ever could have imagined. To be able to enjoy the outdoors rain or shine is an absolute mood lifter. Spring has not stopped. The flowers are blooming and the birds are chirping. Everyone needs to find their own way to navigate this challenging time. Here is an article from Prevention magazine. It may just be the push you need to slide into your sneakers. Walking alone can powerful. A time to tune into yourself and savor the moment with gratitude.

THE INCREDIBLE POWER OF WALKING

Walking is good for the body and the soul. How do we know? Well, there are the piles of research studies that reveal its health benefits: weight management, a tougher skeleton, a stronger heart, a sturdier brain. But we also heard from more than 1,500 readers who answered our call to tell us why they walk—from staying fit to healing a broken heart, the reasons are both simple and moving. Let their stories inspire you, then follow our practical tips for your own walks.

I WALK TO BATTLE DEPRESSION

“Last year, I had a pretty bad injury and had to spend a lot of time resting in my college dorm room while all my friends went out and had a good time. I noticed that my mood drastically changed—and even when I got better, I was still depressed and didn’t leave my dorm once I was able to.

Now I get up before dawn every morning and walk without my phone; I can be with my own thoughts and appreciate what’s around me. I’m able to mentally prepare for the day (while getting a little exercise in too!), and I’ve noticed such an increase in my mood. Walking has so many benefits—why wouldn’t I walk?!”

—Terri Lavelle, Brooklyn, NY

3,500

You’ve heard that 10,000 steps a day is the magic number, but even logging just 3,500 daily steps can lower your risk of diabetes by 29%.

I’VE REDISCOVERED THE BEAUTY OF LIFE

“I never used to be much of a walker, so I’ll be the first to admit that when my doctor told me to walk each day, I was less than thrilled. On that first walk, I decided to take my 8- and 10-year-old grandchildren with me. As we walked, they pointed out different things they thought were beautiful, like flowers and trees.

I love our special time together, and I’ve begun to see the world through their eyes—it’s made me realize how much of this world’s little beauties I’ve been missing.”

—Rhonda Nichols, Seattle

Meditation doesn’t have to be done in the solitude of your bedroom.

Laurie and her grandkids’ routine of taking in the world around them, a.k.a. being mindful, is a main component of it. Try this 10-minute walking meditation from the experts at mindful.org.

As you begin your walk,

hold your arms in a comfortable position. Pay attention to the rise and fall of your feet; notice how your legs stride. If your attention wanders, shift it back to your bodily sensations—this first step is all about you.

After a few minutes, turn your attention to the sounds around you.

Do you hear birds chirping? A lawnmower whirring? Take in every sound, both pleasant and unpleasant.

Now shift your awareness to smell.

Perhaps you get a whiff of earthy mulch or the gentle scent of fresh-cut grass. Breathe it all in.

Move on to vision.

Take in the colors, objects, and scenery around you. Maybe you notice your neighbor’s new flower bed or you realize the trees are finally in bloom.

In the last few minutes, bring your awareness back

from your surroundings to your body.

SCIENCE-BACKED REASONS TO WALK

Michelle and Betty are on to something with their commitment to walking at every stage of life—here’s the research that proves them right:

1 WALKING IS AN ENERGY BOOSTER

One study found that adults who walked for 30 minutes five times a week had more energy to get through the day, felt healthier, and were more confident than people who walked less frequently.

2 IT CURBS SUGAR CRAVINGS

If you have a sweet tooth, lace up your sneakers. Research suggests that walking can curb cravings for sugary snacks, likely due to the endorphins (feel-good chemicals) physical activity releases.

3 YOU’LL SLEEP BETTER

One study found that people who took a.m. walks fell asleep faster and slept more soundly.

4 IT CAN KEEP YOU FROM GETTING A COLD

Among 1,002 study participants, just 20 minutes (or more) of aerobic exercise at least five days a week resulted in 43% fewer days spent sick than for those who exercised only once a week or less. And the walkers who did get ill were sick for less time and had milder symptoms.

30-60 MINUTES

Walking this long most days of the week drastically lowers your risk of heart disease.

I’M WALKING INTO MY GOLDEN YEARS

“My good friend Betty is 87 years young. Why do I say that? Because while others her age are shuffling about in walkers or using scooters, Betty is booking it across the streets, trails, and beaches of sunny San Diego. I’m only 49, but her fast gait is my inspiration. I once asked her how she was still so agile at an age when many people weren’t. She said 

That stuck with me, so now I walk to ensure that I too will thrive in my golden years, as fully and joyfully as Betty does.”

—Ellen Habart, West Newton, MA

EVERY WALK IS A GIFT

“Eight years ago, I unexpectedly went into renal failure, and it turned my world upside down. After two years on dialysis, I was lucky enough to receive a kidney transplant from a 20-year-old man. I’m so grateful to his family for their kindness that gave me this lifesaving gift, so I affectionately call my kidney ‘Dude.’ And each day, I walk for Dude. 

I walk to deal with the challenges the rejection medications can cause, and I walk to live. I am 67, and I want Dude and I to live to see 100 together. When I walk, I see my life at 70, at 80, and beyond, and guess what—future me is still walking.”

—Laura Osika, Western Springs, IL

3X

Walking for about 40 minutes three times a week increases the size of brain regions associated with memory and planning.

WALKING GAVE ME MY LIFE BACK

“I was a 30-year meth addict. I’ve been clean for a decade, but seven years ago I had a stroke, developed many health problems, and gained 150 pounds. I changed my diet and started walking on a treadmill for just 20 minutes each day. Then I moved my walks outside. I’ve dropped 100 pounds and counting. Walking helps ease my depression and steady my moods and does wonders for my physical health and self-confidence. It helps me stay clean, because I don’t ever want to return to my previous life. Walking also gave me my fairy-tale ending: I’m 61, and I have the love of my life back after losing him 25 years ago. I truly believe that if I hadn’t chosen to walk that first day, I would not still be here. I am still determined to make my life better every day, by walking every day.”

—Ashley Andre, Davenport, IA

2 HOURS

Walking for this long throughout the week can reduce your risk of stroke by 30%.

—Julie S., Mount Pleasant, SC

I WALK ‘CAUSE I CAN

“I’m lucky I can walk. Decades of obesity destroyed cartilage in both my knees, and carrying around that extra weight can make moving pretty hard. But instead of giving up, I lost 100 pounds—now I walk to maintain that weight loss, and I walk because it helps keep my remaining knee cartilage healthy and strong.

(nothing beats the feeling of breaking in a new pair of sneakers!) that I dubbed 2019 the year of the 5K. I signed up for one 5K each month, and if I couldn’t find a local one, I signed up for a virtual one. I crossed the finish line of all 12 races, and my family even started joining me. Fit time has become family time, and there’s nothing better than that!”

Pump Up Your Walk!

Start wherever you are, like Lori and Melissa did. When you’re ready, these easy tips from Brian Zehetner, director of health and fitness at Planet Fitness, can help you torch calories and tone up.

TRY A TEMPO WALK

“Do a light warm-up, then walk at a pace that is comfortably hard (conversation should be difficult) for about 20 minutes or as long as you can. Drop back to an easy pace for a cooldown,” he says.

POP IN YOUR HEADPHONES

Whether you prefer music, podcasts, or audiobooks, all can help you walk longer. “Distractions like music can help you forget about the stress your body is under, and quite a bit of research shows that it can improve your performance during exercise,” says Zehetner.

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR ROUTE

Plan out a walk that includes “tools” like hills, lampposts, fire hydrants, and even traffic lights. Walking uphill will spike your heart rate and push your muscles harder, and you can use these regularly occurring features to do intervals (warm up, then alternate between speed walking and a slower pace each time you pass one).

UPDATE YOUR TREADMILL ROUTINE

If you can’t walk outside, hopping on the treadmill is a good alternative that doesn’t have to be soul-crushingly boring. Try incline intervals, in which you do a few minutes at an easy pace, then jack up the speed and incline for a few minutes before dropping back to an easy pace, repeating as long as you’d like. Or try an interactive walking experience—many treadmills offer them on built-in screens.

READY TO GET WALKING?

If the incredible women on the previous pages have you wanting to lace up your shoes to change your life, sign up for the Prevention Virtual Walk on May 2! Here’s everything you need to know to take part.

Committing to a 5K is a powerful way to get healthy. “We’re more likely to reach our goals if we get specific,” says trainer Amy Schemper, founder of Body by Amy and host of the Prevention DVD 10-Minute Pilates. She created an exclusive six-week walking program for the Virtual Walk. “I love the training phase,” she says. “It feels purposeful and less overwhelming with a plan.”

HOW IT WORKS:

The Prevention Virtual Walk is a 5K you do wherever you are on May 2. Last October, we had more than 2,500 people commit to taking part, in every single state (and beyond: hello, South African walkers!). You can do the walk wherever you’d like, outdoors or on a treadmill, by yourself or with whomever you please. Dogs are welcome! It’s free to sign up, but for $35, you’ll get a T-shirt, a bib number, and an “I Did the Prevention Virtual Walk” sign. (Every registrant will get emailed the sign—you can print it out too.)

WHY WALK WITH US:

Jennifer Walsh, founder of Walk With Walsh and a Virtual Walk ambassador, suggests using the Virtual Walk as an opportunity to invite a friend or neighbor to join you—and asking him or her to invite folks you may not know. “It’s a great, healthy way to explore and get to know one another better,” she says. Even if you do the Virtual Walk by yourself, though, you won’t be alone: There will be thousands like you walking too.

HOW TO GET READY:

By signing up, you get access to our exclusive Virtual Walk newsletter, which is how you’ll access Schemper’s training plan. “It’ll include walking days, low-impact strength training days, and some flexibility/mobility work,” she says. “I will give you the structure, with options depending on your personal fitness level. The goal will be to get moving and feel good!” We’ll also share other tips from Schemper and fellow walkers on staying healthy, losing weight, and making the most of every step.

ON MAY 2:

Get out there and walk! Fill out your “I Did the Prevention Virtual Walk” sign with something personal to you: where you walked, your time, whom you walked with, how you feel, or anything else you’re inspired to share! Post those pics on Instagram (tag @preventionmag and use #virtualwalk), or email them to us at virtualwalk@hearst.com. Plus, if you email us that you completed the event and share your time, we’ll include you on our official finishers list!

Wishing everyone good health and positivity!