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July 10, 2012 > Walk Your Way to Better Health

Walk Your Way to Better Health

Washington Women's Center Lunch and Learn Can Help You Get Started

Walking is a great way to improve your health and overall sense of wellbeing. You don't need a gym membership or any special equipment other than a good pair of shoes. But getting started can be challenging.

"Sometimes taking that first step is hard, but with a little help it can be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other," said Karen Sindelar, a therapeutic health coach at the Washington Women's Center. "Our bodies are designed to walk. Walking is the one form of exercise you can continue to do as you age, even if you need a cane or a walker."

Sindelar will offer strategies for getting started and tips for increasing your walking time at an upcoming Lunch and Learn class at the Washington Women's Center located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. The free "Walk with Ease" class will be held on Thursday, July 19, from 12 to 1 p.m. You can register online at www.whhs.com or call (510) 608-1301 for more information.

The "Walk with Ease" program is affiliated with the Arthritis Foundation and is for people of all abilities, whether you already do some walking or need a cane or walker to get around. Everyone will leave the class ready to build their own individualized walking plan that fits their needs.

"Even though we will be in a group setting, you'll be able to use what we cover to create your own customized walking program in a way that works best for you," Sindelar said. "I'll help you figure out what motivates you and how you can use that to stick with it."

Health Benefits

Sindelar will talk about some of the many health benefits of walking. She said a big reason is more energy. Walking strengthens the heart and conditions muscles, giving you more stamina.

It can help with weight loss and efforts to maintain a healthy weight. The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that exercising just 150 minutes a week and losing 7 percent of body weight can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.

Walking keeps the bones strong, which is particularly important as you get older and the risk of osteoporosis increases. While men can develop osteoporosis, it is much more common in women. As you age, calcium can be absorbed back into the body from the bones, making the bones weaker.

Walking also lubricates the muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments, reducing the pain and stiffness that can come with arthritis. According to Sindelar, it also helps the body move toxins out of its system by stimulating the lymph, and it oxygenates the cells.

"When the cells in the body have more oxygen, they are better equipped to fight off disease," she said.

Exercise Caution

Sindelar will offer tips that will help participants be successful and also stay safe. For example, wearing appropriate shoes, walking with a buddy or letting someone know where and how long you are walking, carrying identification and a cell phone if you have one, protecting yourself from the sun, and staying hydrated.

She said it's also important not to expect too much right away. She recommended easing into it and increasing your distance and effort gradually over time.

"Everybody has this idea in mind about how far they should be able to go," she added. "Maybe you want to walk as far as you could five years ago, or whatever arbitrary target comes to mind. Part of being successful is being patient and consistent, one foot in front of the other, knowing that soon enough you'll want to go farther and work a little harder. Better to start off slow and have it feel good when you're done, than push too hard and be hurting."

She said it's also important to walk at a pace that works for you. "So if you walk with a partner or a group of people, make sure their pace matches yours or communicate the speed you need to go today," she said.

The interactive session will include some walking and time for questions. Sindelar will also talk about warming up and help participants determine what type of shoe might work best for them.

"This class is open to all fitness levels and walking abilities," Sindelar said. "Walking is good for everyone who is able to do it - to any degree. It helps us all feel better, both physically and mentally."

For information about other programs and services offered at the Washington Women's Center, visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter.

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