TAKE A HIKE
Less than 5% of Americans are considered active and obesity rates are steadily rising. The combination of low physical activity and calorie-dense foods are creating an unhealthy population.
The World Health Organization recommends that adults (18-64 years old) get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.* Many researchers believe that 10,000 steps a day is an appropriate minimum. The average American averages 4,000-5,000 steps per day, but some Americans average less than 3,000 steps per day. Below 3,000 steps is considered a sedentary lifestyle.
Walking is a cost-effective and convenient option for physical activity. Exercise regulates emotion and makes people more resistant to stressors. It reduces stress and anxiety, boost mood and sense of wellbeing, and optimizes cognitive functioning.
Walking has been shown to increase creativity as well. Therefore, if you need a creative solution, take a hike.
Research has shown that exercise is as effective as Zoloft on depression. Exercise raises endorphins, fires more nerve cells, and actually creates more brain cells. BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is beneficial for long-term memory and encourages the growth of new neurons. One way to increase BDNF is through exercise.
These neurotransmitters are released in the brain during exercise:
- Norepinephrine is the stress hormone and neurotransmitter responsible for concentration, alertness, and energy.
- Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being, compulsions, learning, and memory.
- Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure, reward, motivation, and drive.
- Oxytocin is known as the love hormone.
Studies have also shown that regular exercise reduces the rates of chronic disease. Regular physical activity is also believed to prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s, as well as strengthens muscles and bones.
Be aware of your posture as you walk. Keep your gaze ahead and not at the ground. Walk tall and keep your back straight. Move your arms naturally with a slight bend at the elbow. Keep your toes pointed forward and let your heel touch the ground before rolling through to your toes. Your shoulders should be relaxed and moving naturally. Gently engage your core and remember not to clench your fists or teeth.
Increase your step count:
- Wear a pedometer, fitness tracker, or smart watch. Tracking steps allows you to see if you are meeting the recommended 10,000 steps.
- Get a walking buddy. Implement family walks or hikes to increase everyone’s wellbeing.
- Walk a dog.
- Park farther away from the store.
- Choose to take the stairs instead of an elevator.
- Take your lessons on the go. Teach your children while walking around the neighborhood, garden, or park.
- Tour a museum. Museums are an excellent way to get your exercise when the weather is not optimal.
- Go on a walking trail at a state park and don’t forget your walking buddy.
- Be a good example for your children. Remember that active children are more likely to become active adults.
*World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity