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Gym Shorts: Footpaths, trail hikes and boardwalks

November 16, 2023

Last time, I wrote about cycling. My husband, Jim, is a walker. Needless to say, I don’t often walk with Jim because I prefer biking around town and on the KIPP Trail. We latched onto these physical activities decades ago. So they became, quite simply, habits for us.

If riding a bike is not for you, then consider the pleasures, and especially the benefits, of walking. Walking is also an easier habit to incorporate into your daily routine. Jim starts his walk early in the morning and again later in the day with our dog, Joplin.

Jim David and Joplin taking in the fresh air on their regular walks together

The cool thing about walking is that you may be able to incorporate it into your work routine. For example, if you get 15-minute breaks at work, then go for a quick walk. Or take that walk after a meal. Even doing chores around your home count. Some physical activity is better than none.

You can also make it interesting by counting how many steps you take per day. I keep reading that 7,000-10,000 steps per day helps on several levels. There’s a lot of research that indicates the more daily steps you take, the better your health.

From a mental health perspective, walking promotes feelings of happiness, puts one in a better mood and reduces depression. So, getting outside is just nice for your overall well-being. There is something to being outside at any time of year. It’s easy to take in the colours, trees, and smells, and of course, the vistas of the beautiful Lake Huron shoreline along the beach boardwalks.

There are so many different types of walking you can do – from just a regular-paced walk to speed-walking, and hiking on our many adventurous trails. Even better, if you are a parent or grandparent, it’s a great way to introduce children to walking.

Like any activity, if walking is a new sport for you, then be aware of your surroundings and start out small. Don’t overdo it. Start with a 10-minute walk and build on that over time. Your muscles will thank you.

I’ve often wanted to try Nordic or pole-walking – where you use something akin to ski poles. I have not tried it yet but it is on my list of new activities to try out this winter. My research shows that it definitely provides health-promoting physical activity. You can burn more calories than just walking and experts say it makes regular walking easier, especially for people with knee pain.

Using the Nordic poles means you activate all of the muscles of the upper body as well. It’s reported that you engage 80-90 per cent of your muscles, as opposed to 50 per cent, providing a substantial calorie-burning benefit.

Don’t forget to check out the maps and brochures at your local tourist office. There’s all kinds of information on the Bruce County and Kincardine Trails, including the Heritage Walking Tours of Kincardine and the Tiverton Walking Tour guide.

The bottom line is that any kind of walking can improve your balance, cardiovascular system, and muscle tone. It also reduces the rate of cognitive decline and may help to reduce chronic issues. Just remember, the best part about walking is that you get to meet and greet a ton of people when you’re out and about. And if you’re walking your dog, you’ll meet new doggie friends as well.

As a reminder, you should always consult first with a medical professional or coach before starting a fitness program.

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