More Walking Can Extend Your Life

“Mom, I need new shoes. It’s been two years since I had new shoes!” my daughter exclaimed as we walked around our neighborhood.  She was about 9 at the time.

“I think you might be exaggerating. I bought the shoes you are wearing last fall, so that’s more like six months. Spring is a good time for new walking shoes, though. What kind of shoes would you like?” I asked.

We were trying to reach the goal of 10,000 steps using our pedometers, or step counters. That’s equal to about five miles of walking during the course of a day.

“I want ones that keep the water and bugs out,” she added, looking down at her well-worn shoes.

“Have you been having problems with bugs getting in your shoes lately?” I teased as we walked by a few remaining small piles of snow.

“No, I’m thinking about this summer,” she replied with a grin.

We passed numerous walkers that evening who also were enjoying the warmer weather. I wondered if they knew about a fairly recent study about the benefits of moderate physical activity and longevity.

According to a 2015 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people who get regular, moderate activity, such as walking 30 minutes a day, lowered their risk of death by 31 percent, compared with those who had no activity during leisure time. In fact, increasing the amount of physical activity to at least three times the recommended amount reduced their risk of death by 39 percent.

According to other studies, regular physical activity helps prevent diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis. Walking also reduces stress and improves sleep and overall mood.

These are some amazing benefits for the price of a pair of shoes and a little time. Consider these tips as you enjoy the welcoming weather of spring.

  • Be sure your walking shoes fit properly. Shop for shoes late in the day when your feet may be a little larger. Measure both feet, and be sure you have a thumbnail’s width (about one-half inch) between the tip of your longest toe and the edge of the toe box.
  • Wear appropriate socks when you try on shoes and try on more than one size and brand. The shoes should fit comfortably, but not feel so loose that your feet slide forward. Your heel should not slip up and down. Try on both shoes and walk awhile.
  • When you have your shoes and you’re ready to walk, be sure to warm up before you begin. Do some static stretching, a continuous stretch to the point where you feel a slight pull. Start out walking slowly for the first five minutes or so.
  • Pace yourself if it has been awhile since you were physically active. In fact, consider discussing physical activity with your physician or other health-care provider before you begin.
  • Take the talk test. If you can’t talk while you are exercising, slow down. If you feel pain, dizziness or nausea, stop right away.
  • Stay well-hydrated. Bring a water bottle and sip regularly.

If plain water is kind of “boring” try infusing water with fruit and/or herbs. Be creative and invent some new flavor sensations!

  • Start with clean hands, containers, cutting boards and knives. Rinse fruit and herbs thoroughly.
  • Try one of these flavor add-ins:

**Citrus water:   1/2 cup sliced oranges, lemons, or grapefruit + 2 quarts water
**Strawberry kiwi water: 3 sliced strawberries + 1 peeled, sliced kiwi + 2 quarts water
**Watermelon rosemary water:  2 cups seedless water melon (cut in chunks or balls) + 1 sprig rosemary + 2 quarts water
**Raspberry lime water:  20 crushed raspberries + 2 sliced limes (without rind) + 2 quarts water

  • Refrigerate overnight.
  • Don’t mix batches. Use up the batch, clean the container and make a new batch.

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Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson