Contributed by Tiffany Silverberg
It’s seems simple. Walking. You took your first steps as an infant – and it’s been a primary mode of movement for your whole life. It’s like breathing. Sometimes you don’t think much about walking – but it’s one of the best things you can do for your physical and emotional well-being. Walking could be the key to your health and your ability to juggle all the responsibilities. If you’ve been wondering, “What are the benefits of walking,” or just need a little motivation to get started, here are some reasons to step out!
Strong Bones, Strong Muscles
We all know that over time our bones and muscles weaken. Brittle bones and tired muscles are not terribly helpful when we have so many responsibilities throughout the day – caring for ourselves and for others. That’s why walking is so important to keep those bones and muscles strong. The National Osteoporosis Foundation lists walking as a low-impact, weight-bearing exercise, which puts the necessary pressure on your bones to keep them strong and healthy. To add a little extra muscle strengthening as you walk, stop every few minutes and, from a standing position, rock up onto your toes and back down again. Repeat in intervals, increasing as you get stronger. This combination of bone and muscle exercise will keep those bones solid and you ready to tackle what the days bring.
Just as important as the physical benefits of walking are the emotional and mental benefits of walking. If you find yourself stuck in a routine of caring for everyone else while rarely having time for yourself, making time for a daily or every other day walk will make all the difference. Think of it as a mental break from everything else you have to think about and do throughout the day. In addition, moving those muscles and getting your heart rate up will release endorphins and help you feel better – both in the moment and throughout the day. Last winter, we recommended walking and other power exercises as a great way to relieve stress. Throughout the year, get up, get moving, and enjoy a little stress relief.
It seems counterintuitive, but you are feeling exhausted and drained from daily schedules. A short walk might be just what you need to restore some energy and to change up your routine. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous jaunt. Just get out in the sun or hop on the treadmill and walk a bit. Stretching those muscles and raising your heart rate a bit will bring some refreshment. In fact, exercising tends to help you sleep better – so you will wake with even more energy for others.
Time Alone and Time for Others
According to the Caregiver Action Network, one of the first things to be neglected in the midst of the chaos and new normal of caregiving is your intimate relationships. As you find yourself pouring into others, you may also find yourself with less to give to those you love the most. A scheduled walk can help. This can be your time together. Throw on some workout clothes and make it a fun way to exercise together. Or take a stroll in your favorite location – don’t forget to hold hands. Use this time to talk, reconnect, and remember the value of your relationship.
When to Walk
As you look at your daily routine, it can be hard to imagine how you’re going to find the time to walk. How can you possibly add one more thing to your to-do list? Get creative about where and when you can take a walk. Do you drive a loved one to a regular appointment? Can you step outside the doctor’s or therapist’s office and walk around the building a few times? Does your child have sports practices? Can you grab a couple other parents and walk around the track or field while you’re waiting? Look for useable time during or in between things and make it happen.
Look for excuses to get walking and give back. Organizations like the Muscular Dystrophy Association host local walks to raise awareness and funds for research and support. If you have a cause close to your heart, sign up for a walk or organize one yourself. You’ll find yourself more motivated to strap on those tennis shoes and get out there if you know you’re doing it for a reason! The fundraising aspect is helpful for motivation as well. When you have money on the line, and more importantly funds for a cure on the line, you will be eager to follow through and get moving. If the walk is a particularly long or challenging, you may even find yourself needing to train for it. Get an accountability partner and start walking together to get ready for the big event.
Make the Time
If you just don’t think you have the time, make time for respite. Carve it into your schedule. Your Lotsa Calendar is perfect for this. Ask volunteers to come and sit with your loved one who needs care, or bring you dinner, or clean the gutters – whatever is keeping you from taking that time for yourself. Use the time freed up to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and walk. Reminder yourself what are the benefits of walking. You will be more empowered, energetic, and prepared to care for those around you!