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Stride for Better Health ~ [Issue 0405-1]  Wellness Weekly
 Apr 07, 2005 06:34 PDT 

Copyright 2004 by Patricia Wagner

Did you know that walking is one of the best activities you can do to
dramatically increase your level of health?

Many people today are afflicted with "coach-potato-itis!" They come
home from work, switch on their televisions and forget that their
bodies need maintenance. But one day reality comes crashing through
when their doctors say, "You have a problem!"

This article will show you a simple strategy for improving your
health through a fun and inexpensive walking program that promises
many benefits.

First, it will increase your energy level. Since walking is an
aerobic exercise, it helps the heart and lungs become more efficient.

Both PCOPF (the President's Council on Physical Fitness) and the
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease
(NIDDK) state that a regular walking program can lower resting heart
rates and blood pressure. It can help burn excess calories and
increase muscle tone too.

Second, walking can enhance your mental health. Taking regular walks
can help reduce stress and enable you to sleep better. It can also
help relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. When you
walk, your body produces endorphins which produce a feeling of wellbeing.

Third, it's fun! The PCOPF calls walking the most popular form of
exercise. It can be very enjoyable taking walks with a friend or
loved one or even in groups. My husband and I often take walks at
night and discuss our day. It's a special time for me.

Here's what you'll need as you begin your new walk-for-health
lifestyle. Purchase a pair of comfortable shoes, sunscreen or a hat
and sunglasses. Choose loose-fitting garments. Bring along a bottle
of water on warm days.

But before you briskly stride out the door to begin your new
adventure, you'd better check with your doctor first if you
experience any of these symptoms: persistent dizziness, chronic
shortness of breath, high blood pressure, heart problems, chest pain.

When you're ready to begin walking regularly, there are some
precautions to take. Walk during daylight hours or at night only in
well-lit areas. Be sure to obey all traffic rules for pedestrians. If
you decide to wear headphones, make sure you can still hear what's
going on around you - like cars honking. Stop and rest if you start
feeling sick to your stomach, dizzy, or experience unusual pain.

Try to walk whenever possible as part of your daily activities.

- For example, park a distance from stores so you can get some extra
exercise going to and from your destination.

-Why not visit local parks to enjoy the beauty of nature while you're

-Check out the neighborhood where you live to find good routes.

-On rainy days you can walk in malls instead of doing without your
exercise time.

-It's a good idea to make a habit of selecting stairs instead of
elevators when you need to spend time in office buildings.

-It's more fun if you have a companion. This is good exercise for
dogs too - they love to go for walks!

Experts recommend thirty minutes of brisk striding per day. It's best
to walk every day, but you only really need to walk five days a week.
This can be broken down into smaller segments of time - three
ten-minute walks instead of one long 30-minute one.

Try to stride as fast as you can without overexerting yourself. You
can tell when you are going at a brisk pace because your heart will
beat faster and you'll breathe deeper. However, your heart should not
be racing and you should still be able to carry on a conversation.

So get off the couch, put those chips down, slip on your comfortable
shoes and start striding your way to better health!

Patricia Wagner offers informative tips on living a more
energetic lifestyle at http://www.a-to-z-wellness.com. She
is also an artist and you can view her original paintings
at http://www.artbywagner.com.
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