Avoid Winter Inertia by Walking and Hiking
Do you stop exercising outside and hibernate on your couch when the weather turns cold? Well, even if you’ve stashed your summer workout gear, you have no excuse for becoming a couch potato during the winter.
When the leaves have fallen, commit to a regular walking or hiking program that lets you enjoy the outdoors while staying active and healthy. Whether you do long weekend hikes, go for evening walks or take lunchtime jaunts, you can avoid developing the habits and physique of a bear this winter.
Regular exercise, defined as 2.5 hours of low-impact walking or hiking each week, can produce great health benefits without straining your hip, knee and ankle joints. Make sure you put on proper footwear, and you can enjoy all of these benefits:
- Stress relief: Going for a walk frees your mind of anxiety and allows you to decompress and reflect. Physical movement burns off adrenaline and releases mood-elevating endorphins.
- Increased overall fitness: A good hike conditions your cardiovascular, respiratory and muscular systems. Your entire body, from your ankles to your neck, gets a workout.
- Weight control: Weight loss resulting from regular exercise tends to be more permanent than weight loss through dieting. It’s a good thing, then, that even walking leisurely burns more calories than most people realize. On average, a person who weighs 185 pounds burns 100 calories for each mile walked at a 24 minute per mile pace. That projects to 250 calories burned each hour while going for what amounts to a stroll. Walking faster uses up more calories, as does hiking up and down hills.
- Lowered disease risk: Exercising regularly can lower your risk for suffering a heart attack or stroke by 20 percent. Similarly, walking and hiking can help people with type 2 diabetics improve their blood sugar control and reduce their need for medications.
- Strengthened bones: Walking and hiking count as weight-bearing exercises because people must support and move their entire bodies. This kind of movement builds bone mass, prevents the progression of bone-weakening conditions such as osteoporosis and lowers the risk of fractures.
Go as you are
Walking and hiking can be done anywhere, anytime and without expensive equipment. You need never succumb to winter couch potato syndrome.
- Pick your path: Whether you live in the city, suburbs or country, you can find great places to walk and hike. Lovely outdoor trails are closer to your home than you realize. Most cities and towns take great pride in their parks and nature preserves, and if you live near the mountains you have many challenging destinations available. Brisk walks through neighboring towns can also be fun and interesting.
- Begin where you are: You don’t have to be in great physical condition to begin a walking program. If you’re overweight or inactive, just start slowly and gradually build up. Go once around your block on your first day, then increase the distance over the following days and weeks. Studies have shown that it only takes 10 minutes of continuous, moderate exercise to yield small health benefits.
- Treat your feet right: A good pair of shoes is the only equipment you need to walk or hike safely and comfortably. People of differing weights, postures and gaits require different foot support, so be sure to get professional advice when you buy your first pair of hiking or exercise shoes.