Our bodies have developed over hundreds of years to enable us to walk and run in order to find our food. Now we drive to the supermarket to collect our food. We take the bus or drive to work. When we get there, we go up in an elevator. Many of us sit at our work all day. No wonder we lack energy and our bodies feel lethargic and stiff.
Countless studies have shown the great benefits to be obtained by even small amounts of exercise done on a regular basis. With physical activity we feel better, we are more relaxed and we live a longer and healthier life. Since our bodies are designed for walking, what better way to get the exercise we need?
So, is walking yet another activity that must fit into an already over-loaded schedule? Is it just one more thing to feel guilt about when the time can’t be found? Walking does not have to be something that will take a big piece of time out of your day. You can squeeze it in at odd moments or to relax for a spell when you need a break. You can take a walk instead of watch-ing that TV show you really don’t enjoy anyway, or find quality time with your family as you take a walk together in the evening.
Here are some of the ways you can squeeze in “mini walks." Some of these will work for you, others won’t.
Start the habit of going for an hour’s walk two or three evenings a week by yourself, with a friend or with your family. Weekends are also a good time to fit in walks. If you have time on your hands during the day, consider joining a walking group or club. Many exist that have activity levels ranging from mall-walking to power walks. These can be an inexpensive source of good social interaction, too.
If you start these walks when the children are young, it will be a life-time gift to them. After the teenage years they will probably resume the habit and pass it on to their children. You can make the walk more interesting for young children by making up a story as you walk along. With the help of the children make up an imaginary family. How many children do they have and what are they called? What sort of a house do they live in? Who lived on that land before their house was built? It can become a continuing story to which all the children can contribute. It could even become a useful problem solver for children who can use the imaginary child as having a problem that they can then discuss more easily with you.
Have the children look ahead to find common objects and count a point for each... a blue car, a house with three steps in the walkway, a house with a chimney. Maybe for your family you can use the walk as time when you can each review your day and maybe plan tomor-row.
It is always satisfying if the walk can have a certain destination, a park, a playground or a viewpoint.
You don’t need much equipment. You will need layered clothing so that you can remove a sweater as you warm up or add one as the evening cools. You will also need a sturdy pair of walking shoes with enough room so that you can wear an inner pair of thin socks and a thicker pair over them. You don’t need an expensive pair of designer runners; just buy a medium priced and sturdy pair.
When you go to buy shoes, take along the socks you will be wearing and walk some blocks to reach the store. That way your feet will have “spread” a little and the shoes will be snug but not tight. Remember to try on both shoes as many people have feet of slightly different sizes.
We all have to pay attention to our safety when out walking. Don’t become preoccupied with safety but, if you can, walk with a friend and stay on well-lit and well-travelled routes with good footing.
As you begin to experience the feelings of bet-ter physical and mental health from walking, you will start thinking of graduating to longer walks or “hiking." We in western Canada are very fortunate in having access to some of the world’s best hiking areas. Not only do we have mountains, we also have lakes and river valleys, extensive and well-used scenic pathway systems in many of our cities.
You can extend your evening walks into half-day or full-day hikes on local pathways. You can continue to use your sturdy walking shoes but if you plan to hike for several hours you would do well to add some inexpensive additional items. A small backpack from a sporting goods store to contain:
To avoid blisters on your feet you need shoes that fit well. On a longer hike you should carry a supply of “moleskin” obtainable at your drug-store. If you feel a sore spot developing, attend to it without delay by applying a piece of mole-skin to cover the sore area. If a blister devel-ops, do not burst it, but apply moleskin to cover the area.
If your feet start to feel bruised at the end of the day or if you often develop blisters, it is time to invest in a pair of lightweight boots. It is recommended that you purchase these from a knowledgeable sales person at a store spe-cializing in hiking and outdoor equipment. These boots will last you for several years and it is well worth buying a good pair (between $100 and $200) to be sure they will keep your feet comfortable for a full day’s hiking. As when you bought your walking shoes, take along your thin and heavy socks and also remember to have walked at least half an hour so that your feet have “spread” before going into the store. Take enough time to walk in the boots in the store before buying them.
If you decide that hiking is for you (and your family), you may want to go to your local library and obtain a list of hiking clubs in your area. Join one that you find suitable. You will make new friends and find that hiking is a great and rewarding activity for all levels of experience. It will stay with you as a lifelong activity bringing you the joys of being in the outdoors, of having a healthy body and mind, and having friendships with great people.
You will also appreciate how fortunate we are to live in this beautiful country and the need to preserve it for future generations.