Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2010

Winter is finally loosening its noose on the weather at my house.  I’ve actually gotten to walk twice in shorts during the last 10 days.  Nothing feels better than bare legs after a long winter.  It’s so exciting to think of all the walks ahead of me that I won’t need a coat, gloves, scarf and a hat.  I love spring and I love walking in spring.  Here’s why:

  • I know that even if the weather isn’t perfect today, a sunny and warm day is never far away like it was in January
  • I love to look at the wild flowers and flowering trees
  • I love to hear the birds sing their hearts out
  • I love to watch the new tree buds slowly unfurl into bright green leaves
  • I love to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin
  • I love the minimalist walking wardrobe of warmer weather
  • I love to people and dog watch while I am walking at the park
  • I love to feel the warm breeze on my skin
  • I love to walk the dog in the light of day after work instead of in the cold and dark of winter
  • I love that I am always motivated to walk outside on a beautiful Spring day

If the spring weather is motivating you to take a walk don’t forget to put on sunscreen and bring extra water for you and any children or dogs that are walking with you.  It’s also a good idea to keep an umbrella handy in case of unexpected spring showers.  Also, don’t put the gloves and hat away just yet.  Keep some cold weather wear in the car or work so you won’t skip a walk if the weather turns blustery.  Last, check out your local and state park spring activities calendars which will be filling up with nature hikes, wildflower hikes and educational activities for you and your children.

What do you love about spring walking? Will you be walking more frequently or taking longer walks now that we have longer daylight hours?  Has spring come to your house yet? 

Next Post:  Is Trying to Get Fit Stressing You Out?

Read Full Post »

Back in February, we looked at whether a walking routine would meet the guidelines for moderate level intensity exercise set by the CDC’s 2008 Physical Guidelines for Americans.  The studies we looked at reported that walking is considered a moderate level intensity exercise but only if you walk as fast as a 15 minute mile.  Other studies suggest that walking is beneficial even if you walk slower but emphasized that as you walk faster there is a corresponding increase in the health benefits that you will receive.  

But this is only half of the story… 

In addition to recommending 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of a moderate intensity aerobic activity, like walking, the CDC also recommends that adults perform muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week.  While walking is great for your aerobic fitness, walking will not strengthen most of your major muscle groups. 

Do you have any idea what the word ‘sarcopenia’ means?  I didn’t either.  But, I learned that sarcopenia is a condition of age-related loss of muscle mass and strength.  We begin to lose muscle mass around age 40 and, if you don’t do anything to stop it, up to 33% of your muscle mass may be gone by age 80. 

Researchers are focusing on why we lose muscle mass as a part of aging and many think that it is related to a slow-down of blood flow to our muscles as we age which deprives our muscles of the nutrients and oxygen needed to rebuild and repair our muscles. 

Weight training is one way to stop the process of losing muscle mass and increasing the blood flow to your muscles.  (Prevention –Feb 2010, pg. 73) In as little 15-30 minutes each day, you can perform all the weight training exercises you need to realize improvement in your muscle mass – no matter what your age!  

Weight training will help you reverse the age-related loss of muscle mass and prevent an increase in body fat as you maintain or increase your muscle mass.  Exercise helps the muscle cells get bigger and it also makes your muscles stronger.  Weight training will reduce body fat, increase your bone density, increase lean muscle, and help you control your weight as your body burns calories more efficiently.  If you are suffering from arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity or osteoporosis, weight training can help reduce the symptoms of these chronic conditions.

It is easy to start a weight training program right at home.  All you need are free weights which you can find at any Target, Wal-Mart or sports store. You can try the weights out at the store to see what you should start with.  I have 3 lb., 5 lb., and 8 lb. weights that I use for my workouts.  Believe it or not these free weights coupled with exercises that use your own body weight for resistance is all that you need to start a weight training program. 

The most recent information on weight training indicates that aiming for 8-12 repetitions of the heaviest weight that you can lift is the most efficient way to work your muscles.  For instance, if you are a beginner to a weight training program and you are working your biceps, see if you can lift 3lbs for 8 repetitions.  Was it easy or were you struggling to make it to 8 reps?  If you were struggling, then you are using the correct weight, for now.  If it was easy to reach 12 reps then move up to the 5lbs. and so one until you find a weight that is challenging for you.  When your current weight is no longer a challenge, move up to the next weight. 

Your weight training routine should target your main muscle groups including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.  Right now I am following the Total Body Routine developed by Mark Fenton in his book The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss & Fitness.  For a comprehensive weight training routine, Fenton suggests building up to 2 sets of 12 reps for the following exercises:  push-ups, bent-over rows, lunge with bar or weights, full abdominal crunch, overhead press, pull-ups, squat with bar or weights, isometric side support, dips and biceps curl.  If your time for weight training is limited, he suggests completing exercises 1-6 from the list above on the 1st day and exercises 7-10 on the 2nd day.  You should alternate between the 1st workout and the 2nd workout 3 times per week allowing for 1 day of full rest.  Disclaimer:  I do not do pull-ups and I substitute ‘regular’ crunches in the sit-up position for the full abdominal crunch. 

If you are unfamiliar with any of the exercise above or you want to try different weight training routines, there are many resources that can help:

  • Check out Fenton’s book from your local library and learn about the Total Body Routine exercises and all of the other great walking information he discusses in his book
  • Go to the AARP website for video instruction on some of the exercises listed above
  • Go to the Prevention website for demonstrations of arm, back, butt, chest, and leg exercises
  • Check out weight training DVDs or books at the library
  • Hire a personal trainer for a session or two
  • Ask a friend who has experience weight lifting to give you some pointers
  • Download a weight lifting instructional application to your smart phone

Like all exercise programs, you should warm up your muscles before you jump into the main routine.  I do an ‘ultimate energy’ qigong stretching routine before I lift weights.  Check out this link if you want to learn more about qigong or you would like to see a step-by-step video presentation of this routine.  This routine gently stretches many of your main muscle groups and it is a good start to a weight lifting routine.  One more thing to remember is that you should never work the same muscles two days in a row – give those muscles a day off in between workouts.  

So keep walking everyday, but also think about starting a weight training program today to keep your muscles strong and healthy for a lifetime. 

Do you lift weights regularly?  Do you lift at home or at the gym?  Let me know with a comment.

Read Full Post »

A 2008 study conducted by Western Washington University psychology professor Ira Hyman found that 75 % of walkers who were talking on a cell phone did not see the colorfully dressed clown riding a unicycle in the same open plaza that they were walking through. 

This study followed a related study by Hyman that reported that walking cell phone users were more distracted than those walking and listening to music devices, those walking in pairs or those walking alone.  Furthermore the study reported that walking cell phone users were slow and zigzagging as they walked.  Professor Hyman considered whether “they had a harder time walking because they were not as plugged into the world around them.” (1)    

Do you frequently walk while talking on your cell phone?  In our busy lives we often try to multi-task by walking and making calls to a spouse, friend, family member or work associate.  The problem is that talking on a cell phone while walking can prevent you from receiving many of the benefits that daily walking has to offer. 

Downsides of Multi-Tasking 

Have you ever noticed that if you are talking on your cell phone while walking once your route is done you have no recollection of actually ‘being there? 

Professor Hyman’s study reports that the walking / phone talking combo results in slower, less purposeful walking.  If you are walking slower than normal, then you are short-changing your heart and lungs from the aerobic health benefits that walking offers.  

Talking on the phone while walking might prevent the stress reduction benefits that come from walking and it may increase your stress levels if you are having a dreaded or confrontational call or you are talking to someone who frequently bombards you with their stressful life. 

Walking and talking on the phone doesn’t allow for a mind time-out.  My favorite part of walking is letting my thoughts roam free to day dream.  Its amazing how your brain will problem-solve or come up with great ideas for home or work when you give yourself some time for random thought. 

If you are talking on the phone while walking outside you probably aren’t appreciating the emergence of spring flowers, how the buds are plumping up on the trees, how fast the clouds are moving across the sky or all of the interesting characters you see walking down a city sidewalk.  You are not experiencing your surroundings – you are not present in the moment. 

Let’s face it; if the subjects in the study didn’t see a flamboyantly dressed clown while talking on the phone, it is safe to say that you won’t notice someone who could be a threat to you because they can tell you aren’t paying attention. 

How to Free Your Daily Walk from the Phone 

Now that you know how much you are short-changing yourself from daily walking benefits by using your cell phone while walking what can you do to stop? 

Try to leave your phone at home, at your desk or in the car.  If you feel safe and/or there are other people that could assist you in an emergency where you walk, try to leave the phone behind.  Do you really have to be available during the time that you will be walking?  Liberate yourself from the phone.  Enjoy the freedom. 

Screen your calls and only answer ‘emergency’ calls.  If you feel safer keeping your phone with you during your daily walk try to not answer incoming calls.  Let voice mail pick up the call.  Put the phone on ‘silent.’  If you must answer the call keep the call short or tell the caller you will have to call back. 

Make calls only during your ‘cool-down.’  If you absolutely have to make a call try to call only during the last few minutes of your walk….during the cool-down.  This practice will allow you to reap the benefits of walking during the majority of your walk time but you will also have a few minutes to make a call when you are already walking slowly. 

Daily walking can be one of the best things you do for yourself all day.  If you use your walking time to talk on a cell phone you are missing out on many of the benefits that can keep us motivated to walk every day, no matter what.  Don’t short change yourself or your daily walking routine.  Embrace all of the benefits that daily walking can bring to your life…kick the phone habit and give your mind a break. 

Have you walked today?  Do you frequently talk on the phone while you walk?  Keep in touch by clicking the comments link below.

(1)  Relyea, Kie.  “Clown Passes Unnoticed by Cell Phone Users.”  The Tennessean 26, November 2009:  22A.

Read Full Post »