Walking Offers Physical, Mental Health Benefits

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Today is National Walking Day and the physical and mental benefits of walking might have you wanting to take a stroll.

“Walking day for me is every day of the week,” Alla Yanovski-Tilton, of Canton, said. “It gives me peace of mind in these crazy times and keeps me in shape.”

“The only thing better would be bicycling or running,” Dick Thomas, of Simsbury, said.

Thomas is 93 years old and walking two and a half miles along with a few walking buddies is a part of his daily routine.

“He does every day,” Bill Youngstrom said.  “There’s another person who does every couple days and I do two days. Get out and exercise. It’s great.”

And it’s no secret that walking is one of the best activities for your health.

“American Heart Association actually promotes walking as the most important physical activity to decrease heart disease,” Dr. Varalakshmi Niranjan, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut, said.

But it’s not just heart disease.

Walking also helps with diabetes, joint pain, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And beyond your physical health, it does wonders for your mental health by boosting your mood and bringing your stress level down.

And you don’t have to set out on a long power walk to see the benefits, A nice leisurely stroll can go a long way. The most important part is just getting out there!

“It could be 10 minutes a day, 100 steps a day, it could be 1,000 steps,” Niranjan said.  “You can pick your goal and so the walking, see how you feel,. If you can do more, you increase your goal.”

As a way to encourage people to walk, UConn started a “Walk With A Doc” program in 2018.

It is an opportunity for community members to go on walks with medical students and faculty members. The walks kick off with a five-minute talk from a faculty member about a relevant health care topic followed by the opportunity to soak in the fresh air and get some steps in.

“The doctors feel connected with the community, students feel connected with the community and the community feels connected with the healthcare professionals,” Niranjan said.

The walks have been done through Zoom during the pandemic, but UConn is hoping to resume in-person walks April 24 at Elizabeth Park if state guidelines permit.

To learn more about the Walk With a Doc program, just visit https://walkwithadoc.org/join-a-walk/locations/uconn/.

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