Winter is finally behind us, and what a winter it was. This past winter was record breaking everywhere. Jerusalem saw its heaviest snowfall in over 100 years. A double-barrel polar vortex brought daytime temperatures in parts of the United States to -30° F twice in December and January. Snows fell well into March on the east coast. And Israel had its rainiest day ever for the month of May. By anyone’s definition, this was one wild winter. We heard a lot about the economic impact of this winter. But the other cost of a long and cold winter is a lot of added calories consumed, much less activity and exercise and the end result is added weight. Now that all of this is behind us, it is time to take advantage of pleasant weather and start working off all of the added weight.
All year long we look forward to summertime, when we have more daylight hours and more outdoor exercise time. Summer is also the best time to get in shape, shed some weight, and, most importantly, improve your overall health. Going outside for a daily walk, jog or bike ride is a great way to get started. The easiest way to begin is to simply walk. That’s right, just good old walking! It’s simple, it’s free, you can do it alone or with others, and you can fit it into your daily routine very easily. Its benefits are practically endless. Walking is something that we take for granted. In today’s fast paced world, most people just don’t do enough of it.
Good for Walking
Scientists have already concluded in countless studies that exercise is essential for good health and disease prevention. Walking, if done properly and regularly, can be beneficial in many ways. Brisk walking can help to prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer and depression. It is essential for both weight control and weight loss.
How often should you walk and at what pace? The answer to this question depends upon your personal goal. For instance, if weight loss is your goal, then you should count on walking everyday. If cardio-vascular fitness is what you are looking for then every other day (4 times a week) may be enough for you. Obviously, the longer and faster you can go, the more beneficial it will be, but, be careful that you don’t overdo it! People who have been sedentary must start slowly and build up gradually. It is essential that before you begin a walking program you visit your doctor first for a complete medical evaluation. Once you have the approval of your physician, you can begin.
Start at a comfortable pace; walk as though you are slightly late for an appointment. Use the “talk test.” If you can’t say your name three times in a row, you are pushing too hard. You should aim for a minimum of 3.5 miles per hour. For those of you who may want to work up to a power walk, you will want to eventually reach 4.5 mph or more. The recommended minimum time for walking is 30-40 minutes, however if you are a beginner, start off slowly and build up to that amount.
Maintain good posture while you are walking and look straight ahead. Swinging your arms will increase your caloric burn greatly, but make sure your arms are going in a forward direction and not crossing in front of you. A good sturdy pair of proper walking shoes is essential and they need to be replaced about every 400-500 miles of walking. If you don’t have proper shoes or your shoes are worn out, you probably will suffer some type of injury in the lower extremities.
When most people think of exercise, they envision gyms and health clubs with lots of equipment and expense. It is thought of as strenuous and time consuming. Walking is a way to get in your exercise, spend time with a friend or family member, and it is easily fit into your daily routine. Enjoy the company and fresh air!
Vitamin D Benefits
One of the great benefits of outdoor exercising in the summer is that sunshine is the primary source of Vitamin D. Even in the more northern latitudes—where in the winter vitamin D is impossible to get from the sun—in the summer, it is abundant.
In recent years numerous studies have shown that having adequate amounts of Vitamin D in our bodies prevents many cancers, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, asthma in children and diabetes. In fact, the latest research seems to connect low levels of Vitamin D with a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
Research in the area of Vitamin D is ongoing, and continues to looks very, very promising as a tool in the prevention of numerous ailments and diseases. In addition to heart disease, many cancers and immune system diseases like MS, it seems to help prevent rheumatoid arthritis, infectious diseases such as the flu and perhaps mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. So, it seems that a little sunshine can go a long, long way. 20 minutes per day without sunscreen 4 days a week from 9:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon should do the trick.
The Best Reason of All
A February 2011 study found that outdoor workouts showed an improvement in mental well-being, compared with exercising indoors. Exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.
Caution in the Sun
Because the weather is now warmer, take caution to start early in the day or do your walking or jogging toward the evening hours. Drink plenty of water before, after and during your walk. Wear clothing that is lose-fitting, but covers much of your body on sunny days. Make sure to wear a hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun and also to retain water. Most water escapes through the head.
Although there are many other aspects to exercise that should be included in your overall program, working out in the outdoors is a great way to get started and this is the ideal time of the year for it.
Outdoor workouts and Vitamin D are great ways to “add hours to your day, days to your years, and years to your life.”