December is the time of year when we think about giving gifts to family, friends and special people in our lives. During the holiday season, especially, there seems to a lack of time. Sometimes, with all the stress of making holidays special for other people, we forget to take time for ourselves and make sure we have given ourselves a gift.
This year, give yourself the gift of good health. Do some walking every day. Research has shown that walking at a moderate pace at least 150 minutes a week can help you:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease stroke and diabetes
- Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Prevent weight gain
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis and some cancers
- Enhance mental health
- Increase concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain's response to stress
Exercise in general also releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in the hippocampus that are responsible for memory and learning.
Another gift to yourself might be to find a friend that can walk with you. The thought of being alone can be enough to keep some people from walking. The best way to solve this is by finding a friend to walk with. You can plan walking paths that are convenient for both of you, or map out routes that take you places you've never been before. It's a great way to exercise, spend time with friends, and stay accountable to your new healthy habit!
Finally, give yourself the gift of clothing and shoes that will help make walking easier in all kinds of weather. Good shoes and clothes that are comfortable, yet protect you from the elements will help you realize that you can walk in most weather and still be warm and dry.
Walking, American Heart Association
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2nd edition), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
This newsletter has been peer-reviewed.