Walking is one of the best
exercises there is because it –

• is free
• can be done just about anywhere
• is easy on the joints
• improves circulation
• decreases bone loss
• leads to a longer life
• lightens mood
• can contribute to weight loss
• strengthens muscles
• improves sleep
• supports joints
• improves breathing
• lowers risk of dementia.

What’s not to like about that list?

Kenneth Gray, M.D., is an NRV orthopedic surgeon who concurs: “Walking is great exercise. As we age, low impact exercise is very important to reap the benefits of exercise while minimizing detrimental effects on joints. The more ‘jarring’ the exercise, the harder it can be on the joints. Also, we burn off almost as many calories walking at a brisk pace as running at a mild to moderate pace (per miles traversed, not time spent). We also get the benefit of weight bearing exercise on our lower body, which is important for protecting bone mineral density and avoiding osteopenia, osteoporosis and fractures.
Anyone driving on Patrick Henry Drive in Blacksburg over the lunch hour may very well notice Walter Widelo walking solo or with a colleague. He began walking on a consistent basis in January of 2016; at 49, he wanted to lose some weight. Just six months later, he had lost 72 pounds. He maintains his current weight of 184 pounds with walking. “I feel better mentally and physically every time I walk,” he explains. “Walking seems to be a natural fit for my lifestyle.”
Besides the weight loss, walking has given him additional health benefits. He has stopped snoring, his acid reflux went away, and his back quit hurting. When he finds himself stuck on a problem in his job as controller at Moog, Inc., taking a walk helps generate his best ideas. The only slightly negative impact of his walking is that he goes through tennis shoes more often!
“Recently I heard somewhere that ‘Sitting is the new Smoking,’” relates cardiologist Ajaykumar Acharya, M.D. “I have a physician friend who tells his patients that the most deadly thing in their houses is the couch in front of the TV. The best advice is: Walk, Walk, Walk!” He recommends walking 1.5 to two miles at least four days a week, and his personal motto might be: “A mile a day keeps the doctor away!”
“Walking is good for the body, mind and soul,” states Dr. Knotreshia Stewart. “Walking helps get the heart rate up, gives us time to think through situations in life, provides quiet time and increases energy.” Unless the weather is bad or he has a conflict with work or family activity, Widelo walks every day he is at work. When he cannot walk outdoors, which he prefers, he walks on a treadmill. His 2.3 mile lunch route is the same unless the sidewalks have snow, and he uses an alternative “snow route.” After work, he often walks another five or six miles. He walks 15-minute miles or 4 mph, which he considers walking with purpose. He not only receives encouragement from co-workers, but his children also tell him how proud they are of his walking routine.
“I want to continue walking for the rest of my life,” Widelo reveals. “This is the best way to maintain my healthy lifestyle. I believe you have to stick to any exercise program to get long-lasting benefit.” And for him, the proof is in the pudding.
Tips for Starting Your Walking Routine

? Get a complete physical
? Find a flat, easy surface to walk on
? Buy well-fitting walking shoes
? Wear loose clothing
? Carry your cell phone
? Have a hat for sun protection
? Dress in layers
? Buy nice walking socks
? Consider taking a hip water bottle
? Look online for tips on walking posture
? Include a 5-minute warm up and cool down period
Fun Facts

• Walking burns about 100 calories per mile
[for a 160 pound person]
• Racewalking has been an official Olympic sport more
than 90 years
• Longest walk around the world took 11 years, 46,600 miles,
64 countries
• If you’re thinking FitBit, 6,000 steps per day for health;
10,000 steps to lose weight
• 20 minutes = roughly 2,000 steps = roughly one mile

 

Text by Sheila Nelson
Photos by Kristie Lea Photography