Each spring, warm temperatures and an abundance of sunshine beckon Coloradans out of the house. Whether starting a workout regimen from scratch or just trying to get back to their pre-winter form, Dr. Kathy Vidlock of Colorado Orthopaedics in Lone Tree says the benefits of walking and running go beyond weight loss and physical fitness.
“Exercise of any kind is beneficial for people with depression and anxiety. It helps relieve stress and it helps regulate sleep patterns. It helps all people rest more easily at night,” Vidlock says. “Walking is probably the most underrated form of exercise there is.”
Vidlock offers other words of advice to help walkers and runners of all shapes, ages and sizes get the safest and healthiest workout on the trails, sidewalks and shopping mall floors in the area.
Vidlock says outdoor environments like trails and sidewalks provide the best psychological benefit, but indoor environments like the mall are better suited for rainy or cold days. Trails are softer than sidewalks and better suited for people who are just starting out or have joint pain. Concrete sidewalks provide more stability for those starting a running regimen who may be at risk for falls.
Dress for success
“Shoes can really help you or hurt you,” Vidlock says. She recommends going to a running or walking goods retailer to be fitted. Other recommendations are to wear layers of wicking fabric, material that draws perspiration away from the body, to prevent getting too hot during a run or walk, or getting damp and cold as the workout ends.
A good goal for beginners is to work up to a routine of walking for 30 minutes at a time, three times a week. Adding short bursts of intensity to the walk, which Vidlock describes as “a point where maintaining a conversation becomes difficult,” will maximize benefits to the heart and lungs. After establishing a routine, she recommends walking for nine minutes and running for one, then adding a minute of running and reducing a minute of walking each week.
Talk with your doc
Vidlock recommends consulting your doctor to make sure you’re physically able to begin a walking or running regimen, especially if you have a family history of heart disease or lung problems. She also cautions individuals with musculoskeletal or joint instability to consult their physician before pounding the pavement.
“The first couple of weeks are always the hardest,” Vidlock says. “If you know that there are going to be times when you don’t really feel like running, it will be easier for you to keep going.” She also advises inviting others to join in and reminding yourself of health benefits to stay motivated at first. Maintaining a routine for four to six weeks makes it more likely it will become part of your lifestyle.
Rewards are a great way to motivate yourself to begin and maintain a walking or running routine, as long as the reward isn’t chocolate cake. Vidlock says other types of rewards, like a new pair of shoes or exercise equipment, can be just as motivating, and less self-defeating.