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THE POWER OF WALKING

Stepping up your fitness routine

By Natalie Dal Pra

Did you know there’s an inexpensive way to stay in shape, boost your mood, and even reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles? Better yet, it’s as simple as stepping outside.

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SHUTTERSTOCK.COM / KIEFERPIX

Studies have proven that regular low-intensity workouts, like walking, can help a person reduce belly fat and lower the risk of obesity, which, can lead to a positive domino effect for our health. In fact, a study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology demonstrated that walking reduces the risk of hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, high cholesterol levels, and more. Walking is also a much easier cardiovascular activity than running for people with back, knee, and joint issues. 

In addition to the physical perks of regular walking, you may get a mood boost simply by taking a stroll around your neighborhood. A study published in the Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed that 30 minutes of brisk walking could reduce anxiety and depression. When walking, your brain releases “happy chemicals,” like serotonin and dopamine. Interestingly, walking outdoors increases the amount of these chemicals more so than indoor exercise. This may have to do with the amount of vitamin D you’re exposed to while outside.

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SHUTTERSTOCK.COM / MIMAGEPHOTOGRAPHY

Walking regularly also has another surprising perk: younger looking skin. Regular walkers are reported to have increased collagen production, which helps keep skin smooth and elastic. It also appears that the faster a person walks, the better. Researchers found that walking at an average pace compared to a slow pace resulted in a 20 percent reduced risk of overall death, and those who walked at a pace of four or more miles an hour reduced their risk by 24 percent.

To reap all these benefits, experts recommend 30 minutes of brisk walking at least three days a week. This may sound like a lot if you’re not already a regular walker. But it’s worth a try and the only supplies you need are sunscreen, water, and a great pair of shoes.

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Make a stop at a local shop that offers plenty of footwear options and accessories, like Just Run in Bird Rock. “Our inventory has something for all shapes, sizes, and levels of experience,” says Krishna Curry, Just Run’s director of brand marketing and strategy. “The store manager and I are both tenured elite running coaches and former track athletes. We thoroughly vet each item to ensure they are high performing and durable for a variety of weather conditions, terrains, and intensities of exercise.”

For walking, Krishna recommends the Cloud collection of footwear from On Running, as well as the Brooks Levitate sneaker. Water, carried in an insulated water bottle, is also essential for staying hydrated.

Once you have your gear, it’s time to get stepping. Many walkers enjoy listening to podcasts or music while strolling. If you want company, check out meetup.com for walking groups in the San Diego area. There are a variety of clubs for every type of walker, including groups that allow members to bring their dog along. 

Whether you choose to go for a solo trek or have friends join, remember that walking is one of the best kept secrets for improving both your body and your mind. Here’s to getting those steps in!