It may be a sign of a positive addiction kicking in that I skipped the first half of an NFL playoff game this afternoon in order to get in a beach walk on another unseasonably warm day in January, I invited my son and grandson to join Superdawg and me but I got word they were at Best Buy checking out the latest electronic wizardry. I could make jokes about this old guy being more physically active than they are, but that wouldn't really be true, given all their involvement in soccer, basketball, softball, and (of course) baseball. But I did one-up them for an hour, at least.
Walking is an excellent form of exercise for all age groups, but some of my recent reading indicates it may have benefits that are of special interest to senior citizens. I am grateful to the Arthritis Foundation for passing along these nuggets about research on the mental benefits of walking. I cite them just briefly today (and perhaps will do so at greater length in future posts):
* Alzheimers: A study done at the University of Virginia's Health System found that males between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter-mile a day had half the incidence of Alzheimer's Disease and dementia as those of their age group who were more sedentary.
* Mental decline: A study of 6,000 women aged 65 or older discovered that age-related memory decline was significantly less in those who regularly walked the greatest distances. That study was done at the University of California/San Francisco.
Mood: Research reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that walking at least 30 minutes daily improved the mood of depressed patients faster than did antidepressant medication. That is thought to be the result of the release of natural, painkilling endorphins in the body during exercise.
I loved the example the Arthritis Foundation people provided of walking easing the mind as well. They told of Carolyn S. Kortge, who started walking in the 1980s and gradually built up to race-walking competition in the '90s, when she earned race-walking medals in USA Track and Field Association competition. A resident of Eugene, Oregon, Ms. Kortge was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2004 "but continues to keep her mind off the pain in her knees and hands by walking daily."
I love the way she summed up walking's calming effect on the mind:
"When you're walking there's an opportunity for meditative intent. You can be silent and focus on creating a connection with your body through prayer, breathing, or a phrase. It's a wonderful way of changing your focus."
That is so true. And don't we all need to de-stress and re-focus from time to time? I find that walking helps me do that just about every day.
© Robert G. Holland 2013
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