woman in black leggings while walking on brown road
Columns Health Lifestyles

Column: Just walk it off

(Disclaimer: Any opinion contained in this guest column is that of its author.)

(Featured photograph: Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com)

There is a theory that our bodies were created to walk around 12 miles a day. That puts the whole 10,000 steps a day thing in perspective. If you think about how far people actually walked before transportation, that actually makes sense.

It is recommended that you get at least 20 minutes of exercise most days. Walking is great exercise.

You may say to yourself, “I don’t have time to exercise.” I challenge you to think how much time you spend playing on your phone or watching TV per day and then rethink that statement.

Walking is great because the only special equipment you need is a good pair of sneakers. You don’t need a track or special facility to walk. Just walk. You could walk around your yard for 30 minutes, and that will probably add up to a couple of miles. You can walk anywhere. I see people walking for exercise in the mall, which I think is a genius plan because it is climate controlled.

Walking is great not only for your physical health but mental health. Stress is a problem in today’s society like never before. Most people deal with some level of stress daily. So, go for a walk.

As you walk, you are calming your sympathetic (fight or flight) system, which means you are releasing hormones that make you feel happier and calmer. An added bonus is the effects are lasting, meaning that the next time something stressful comes up you are better able to deal with it.

If you want to turbo charge your stress relief, put on your favorite music while you walk. Your favorite tunes go to your Limbic system (place for emotions in the brain) and cause you to feel happy. You can even use calming music to achieve the same thing.

Having trouble sleeping? The more energy you use during the day, the better you sleep at night. If you are sedentary, and begin walking 30 minutes each day, you should notice a difference in sleep quality quickly. Getting quality sleep directly affects your health, so this is a win-win.

According to research, walking also helps with memory. A 2014 study conducted at the University of British Columbia and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that walking “significantly increased hippocampal volume in older women.” The hippocampus is one of the places for memory in the brain. Your brain has pattern generators. When you walk, you are reinforcing those centers in the brain and improving function in neighboring parts of the brain.

The patients I see that walk for exercise report that walking helps clear their heads, and during that time, they come up with solutions to problems they may be experiencing. I must admit I have found this to be true for myself. Being outside, getting fresh air and getting Vitamin D from the sun are all vital. Walking can really change your mood. If you begin walking consistently, you should start to see a positive change in markers like blood pressure and heart rate. You may even see weight loss and muscle toning.

You’ve probably heard the ancient Chinese proverb that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Maybe you actually want to set a goal to walk a thousand miles in a certain time period or a certain amount of miles each week. Some people do better with goals. No matter what, take the first step today. You can’t lose. I’m going to remind you what your parents may have said when you were a kid, “Walk it off!”

Dr. Annie Turner is a graduate of the University of Georgia and Sherman College of Chiropractic. She is certified in physiotherapy and received an applied clinical neuroscience certificate from Life University. Turner Chiropractic is located in Evans.

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