March 30th is National Take a Walk in the Park Day. With the arrival of spring and warmer weather, now is the perfect time to get out for a walk in the park.
Benefits of Walking
People of ages can benefit from going for a walk. One recent study found that walking briskly for at least eleven minutes a day significantly lowered the walkers’ mortality and risk for cancer and heart disease. If you, like many seniors, have osteoarthritis, walking regularly can actually make your pain less frequent and slow damage to your joints. For those of us with lower back pain, walking has been shown to relieve lower back pain. Walking briskly for a half hour, five days a week over the long term, can also improve memory and cognitive functioning in older adults. Brisk walking counts as walking that gets your heart rate up a little. The exercise should feel a little more challenging and you should feel a little short of breath.
In addition to improving physical wellbeing, walking can also improve mental health. If you feel trapped in a downward spiral of worry and anxiety, taking a walk can help you feel better and improve your mood. By walking, you can disrupt the cycle of negative thoughts circling around your head and refocus your attention on the positive aspects of your walk, the scenery, and your surroundings.
Tips for Staying Motivated
Getting off the couch to go out and exercise can be challenging for many of us. Luckily, there are things you can do to make exercising more enjoyable. Start by planning to walk with a friend. Having company on your walk can help you stay motivated to keep going and make your walk more fun. Walking with others allows you to get not just the benefit of physical exercise, but the mental and emotional benefits that come from socializing with others. Some senior centers have walking groups. Contact your local senior center to ask about whether they have a walking group you can join. If a senior center walking group isn’t your thing, start your own walking group by asking a friend or two to join you for regularly scheduled walks.
If you like birds, use your walk as an opportunity to go bird watching. Check our recent blog post on birding to learn more about how to begin birding. Walking in one of our many parks at this time of year can also be a great opportunity to check out the wildflowers that are blooming.
Contra Costa County has many beautiful parks and places to walk. Use your walk as a chance to explore a new park. Check out a of the park by your house or use this as an opportunity to visit a new park in another part of the county. Check out these links for new ideas on parks to explore: https://www.contracosta.ca.gov/446/Parks-and-Recreation and https://www.ebparks.org/. East Bay Parks offers group activities, including hiking activities for older adults and guided walks. Check out their calendar to see their upcoming events.