Walking and Talking Can Encourage Exercise Routine
Instead of sitting down to coffee and donuts, or tea and banana bread, imagine chatting with your friends as you take a brisk walk in your local park. If you can walk and talk, gulping breaths of air between your words, you’re probably getting healthy aerobic exercise with cardiovascular benefits.
“You don’t want to go at such a leisurely pace that you don’t get your heart rate up,” advises Jamie Moore, clinical nutrition manager at Lake Wales Medical Center. “If you can still talk and respond, you are still in an aerobic range.”
Walking and running clubs, even informal groups of friends or neighbors, are good ways to motivate consistent exercise. “Moving is the important part,” Moore says, suggesting the type of exercise is not as important as doing it consistently.
Large groups typically will break into smaller groups based primarily on skill levels. “If you’re the slower person and you’re trying to catch up with the other person all the time, you don’t enjoy it,” Moore observes.
Starting in the morning is usually best. “If you wait till after work, you got a sick kid, you’ve got a sick dog. Life gets in the way,” she explains. “Set the alarm clock, roll out of bed and go.”
It’s a lot harder to cancel when you have an appointment with your buddies, especially when it’s 5 a.m. “You still have to get out of bed to text [them a message],” she quips.
A lot of groups focus on training and spend only a few minutes afterwards socializing. “The meat of the time you do your thing and get back to your house to go on with your day,” Moore explains, adding most working people don’t have time for a longer event. “It’s easier to keep it simple.”
Your walking group may be a group of moms, seniors, dog walkers, co-workers, serious speed walkers, or folks who share similar weight loss or health goals. The American Volkssport Association, Universal City, Texas, which promotes noncompetitive physical activity, has more than 300 registered walking groups across the nation. In addition, there are countless groups organized by fitness clubs, medical centers, and individuals.
Formal groups may have a paid professional that can help keep everyone on track — even beef up the workout by interspersing jumping jacks, hill climbs and strength-building exercises. These groups also may have regular meetings with guest speakers.
But with persistence and planning, anyone can form a walking group by recruiting friends, neighbors and colleagues; posting fliers and online ads; and establishing some agreed-upon guidelines, such as whether to convene rain or shine.
If routes are carefully planned on circular park trails, tracks or around-the-block loops, different paces can be accommodated because slower walkers can be lapped by speed demons and end up at the finishing point at roughly the same time.
Sarah Lowe, a certified fitness trainer who leads a group in Atlanta, suggests ankle weights for fitter individuals.
While walkers and runners may be tempted to make the gathering a social event, they need to stay focused. It may require reminding a friend you are there to train, or telling them “I just need to go by myself,” Moore advises.
Having a goal such as losing ten pounds, lowering your blood pressure, or increasing your endurance will help you get started. “You have to have some reason why you are doing it,” she says. “If it’s not a priority, you’re not going to do it.”
As you continue your new routine, you may notice you are more alert and feel better. Moore says that’s the start of when “you see the rewards.”
story by DAWN KLINGENSMITH and CHERYL ROGERS