Whether it’s the feeling of being at one with nature, the smells, the sounds, the feeling of being a small part of a big world, or just escaping from the “grind” for a few minutes, a walk outside is a mood improver. Go dopamines, go. Swim with the endorphins.
Think how calm and peaceful you feel walking in a misty fog, or how centering it is to be out alone at dawn or dusk. Have you ever walked in the rain and inhaled the smell of the earth and water? Have you stormed out of the house in a bad mood, only to return refreshed and recovered after a walk around the block to “cool off?”
When we were kids (5 kids, to be specific), my mom would make us go outside whenever we’d start to fight with each other. She’d also tell us to take a walk around the block (which only had 3 houses on it) when we were upset or sad. Somehow she intuitively knew the power of a walk outside. Or she just wanted us out of her hair. Or both.
In any case, I’m fortunate because I live in Santa Barbara, where almost every walk has a gorgeous view. So even though I know an indoor treadmill will give me lots of fitness and health benefits, I will never give up my outdoor walks. Because they give me mental health benefits. And a chance to set aside my responsibilities for a while.
Read my sister’s post about 3 Ways to Work Out Naturally. You’ll understand why “nature” is the root of “naturally.” You’ll also find out why I asked about the blue sea and sky.
Alexandra Williams, MA
So many times, we’ll put sunblock on, then a hat and head outside (Head. Hat. Get it?), but leave behind a water bottle because we won’t be gone long, or it’s a hassle to carry, or or or. We won’t lecture you (but we’d like to) about taking along your water bottle, but we WILL share some definitions and information so you can be well-prepared even if you aren’t well-hydrated.
Euhydration – normal hydration. Your body is taking in the same amount of fluid as it’s expending. In a hot environment, that’s about 3500 milliliters (compared to 2500 on a normal day).
Hypohydration – a reduction of body water as the body progresses from a euhydrated to a dehydrated state.
Dehydration – when water losses due to sweat are not offset by water intake.
Hyponatremia – abnormally low plasma sodium concentrations. When more fluids are consumed than are lost, excess water accumulates relative to sodium.
Exertional Heat Exhaustion – the body’s heat production exceeds its ability to dissipate heat, and core temperature rises to >104°. Symptoms can include excessive sweating, nausea, dizziness, and headache.
Exertional Heatstroke – more severe than heat exhaustion. In addition to the above symptoms, heatstroke sufferers can also experience a gradual impairment of consciousness, difficulty concentrating, sweat-soaked, pale skin (these symptoms are different from classic heatstroke), and even death.
* Rather than taking sips of water over the course of your outdoor exercise, drink a larger volume all at once. You’ll stay in euhydration longer.
* If you exercise longer than 90 minutes, rehydrate with water that has electrolytes added (primarily sodium and potassium, though some sodium is reabsorbed by the sweat glands – the body sure is amazing, eh)?
* Drink water before, during AND after exercise – yes, all three.
* Before you go out, eat a small salted snack such as pretzels. As “opposite day” as that sounds, a salted snack will stimulate thirst, plus the sodium helps you retain water.
As to whether it’s better to drink cold or room temperature water, the research clearly indicates that … it doesn’t really matter. We did a post about this question of water temp, and the truth is that the temperature that’s most effective is the one that will induce you to drink more water.
If you find water boring, that’s no excuse to go buy sugar-laden drinks or skip the water bottle. Simple throw in a sprig of mint or rosemary, or a wedge or orange, lemon or lime, and off you go. Up hill. Down dale.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Dear Anne: We can say you are sane enough already to ask a great and common question. Actually you managed a three-in-one special deal as you actually have three separate issues:
And because we like package bonus deals, you get a four part answer to make you happy and zippy!
Problem: Are you dehydrated? Solution: Drink more water
Being underwatered will suck you dry! Even slight dehydration—as little as 2% of normal fluid loss—will reduce your energy levels. Dehydration reduces blood volume, thickening your blood. Then your heart pumps less efficiently, reducing the speed at which oxygen and nutrients reach your muscles and organs, thereby draining your energy.
Problem: Are you anemic? Solution: Get your blood tested
Anemia would cause your stated symptoms. Find out if you’re getting enough iron or losing more than you’re replacing.
Too much sugar? Not eating regular meals or skipping breakfast? Drinking wine late at night or starting the day with simple carbs? Powering through your day by relying on caffeine? Any of these habits will result in overall fatigue.
Your work day is done and so are you! We totally get how tempting a nap sounds after a long, perhaps stressful work day. And maybe what you need is simply to sleep more or to revel in naps, guilt free. Most North American adults undersleep. But you asked about moving, and we are all about activity.
In fact, we bet you already know the counterintuitive reality that exercise increases energy. Studies indicate that as little as three bouts of cardio activity a week for 20 minutes per session boosts energy in as few as six weeks. Once you get past those first few weeks of starting to move more, you will enter that energizer bunny zone where exercise pumps you up rather than drags you down.
To get yourself doing something, the key is to commit to anything, not everything. What is the least you can do given your current exhaustion and ache levels? Determine what is achievable and head for the minimum. We really mean it. Take the mental pressure off yourself and head for the LEAST, not MOST you are willing to start with.
Rather than plunging into high intensity interval training or facing overload weight training, find something you enjoy and that comes easily to you. A resistance training fitness class where you are encouraged to go at your pace. A walk, brisk stroll, or march in place. A yoga, Pilates, stretch, or other mind/body class that combines movement with visualization, relaxation, or quiet time at the end. What about lunges during tv commercials or a few ab exercises before dinner? Just 5 minutes on an indoor bicycle? Steps at home you can go up and down a few times. Water time if you have access to a pool or natural body of water- swimming, pool class, water jogging.
If you still find yourself needing a push to take the fork in the road towards activity, not lethargy, get a dog that likes walks. We might say “later” and “no” to ourselves, but who can deny a pet pooch whose daily walk is the day’s highlight? Wag wag, perky ears and out you go!
If exercise is wearing you out, most likely you need to drop the intensity of your workout. Another possibility is you are choosing stressful moves. Stress will wear you out even if the activity is low intensity.
And of course, we have to interject that your post-exercise nap might be the best thing for you. But if you feel movement is wearing you down, then reduce the intensity or duration. You are either going too hard or too long at this phase of your re-entry program.
Try our Whole Body, No Equipment Needed, Easy as 3-2-1 Routine
Before this post gets too long and tiresome (aha hah ha) let’s go with a simple, straightforward, “gee, we really don’t know your goals, limitations, time available” starting point program. If nothing else, do the following three moves that will address all major muscles of your body. Easy to perform; multi-joint so you get a lot of bang for your buck; and needing no equipment.
When you’re done, walk for 5 minutes.
You will feel so energized you’ll want more. Find that “more” in these posts that also answer your questions:
And of course, we have to mention our recent TransformAging Summit webinar session, “(Re)Starting Fitness Over 50,” which is sponsored by Rancho la Puerta Wellness Resort, a perfect place to ease into exercise. , For sale along with the other 5 presentations. Slides included. $34
First of all Wendy, if you just did a half marathon, you are probably more fit than most of the young people I teach at the university. Congratulations on your achievement.
Let’s help you point by point:
Downward Slope, Effort & Staying Fit: I’ll focus on muscle loss, as you don’t mention a strength training component to your workout. Sarcopenia is the progressive decline in skeletal muscle mass that may lead to decreased strength and functionality. When people talk about the race against time, they are usually talking about sarcopenia.
I wrote an article for The Journal on Active Aging about ways to deal with this that might interest you. Summarized in two words – Resistance Training. If you add some resistance training to your regimen, you’ll be amazed at the results. A 70-year-old who does some form of strength/ resistance training can be more fit than a 20-year-old who doesn’t. Isn’t THAT good news?
I’ll start you with our YouTube playlists, “Healthy Aging Exercises for Women Over 45” and “Women Over 50.”
You’ll also want to check out two of our TransformAging webinar colleagues’ websites – Tamara Grand and Debra Atkinson.
Effortless Walking: Since it sounds like your stamina and heart are chugging along, future effortless walking can be assisted by – you guessed it – resistance training, and balance work to prevent falls. Cody and Dan (our other co-presenters) specialize in this area, so here’s a link to some of their posts on balance.
Sciatica: Most research studies have shown stretching, yoga and low intensity movement (that doesn’t involve twisting) to be most effective in controlling the symptoms. For this we recommend you look locally for instructors who specialize in yoga or Pilates. You’ll want to ask about their certifications, speciality training (for both older adults and back care), and experience. Don’t be shy about asking for references. If you search for exercises online, check the source. For example, we trust the info on this link from the National Institutes of Health.
Final suggestion for now – strengthen your core so your back takes less of the load. We’ll get you started with our post “Abs and Core Exercises That Are Safe for the Lower Back.”
Of course, you can always come to Santa Barbara and join us in one of our classes for older adults. We’ll take good care of you!
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Certainly walking isn’t as intense as running. However, both activities target similar muscle groups, which may be why results in improving heart health are so similar. Research suggests that the type of exercise may not be as important as how much you go, go go. So move forward; locomote; get your gait on!
Walking for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
Want some easy, practical walking tips to get you started or rev you up more? Watch our short video on Walking for Weight Loss (and More). Then bust a move to our post Great Gait: 7 Steps to Better Walking to really get the most out of your walks.
Walk For Weight Loss (video)
Another Fun Fit Fact about walking is that for every hour you perambulate (just had to use that jaunty word), your life expectancy may increase by two hours. Not only that, but a faster stride may also be a predictor of a longer life. (Convinced yet? Read our post Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination?)
Of all the cardio exercise options out there, walking has the lowest dropout rate! It’s the easiest, most accessible, positive change you can make to improve your heart health. And the benefits are exponential. The more you walk, the greater your odds of lowering heart disease risk. What are you walking for?
Would you like fab posts like this one to magically arrive in your inbox twice a week? Subscribe in that nice little box on the right side of this post, and you’ll even receive a free copy of “Look 5 Pounds Thinner in 5 Minutes.”
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
A 56 year old reader asks how to quickly get back into shape:
Usually I’m in fairly good shape (for my age). I had a really hectic last year with a big work project and it threw me off my game (white flour and sugar became my boyfriend). I probably have about 30 pounds to lose. A normal fun day for me used to be a 25 mile ride followed by a couple of hours of kayaking. I did do a 12 mile hike at sea level a few weeks ago and did fine. I just started walking 4-6 miles, 3-4 times a week. I have access to a fabulous gym and am willing to do whatever there. I enjoy weight training and am familiar with most of the moves.
My eating is not too messy. I’m a vegetable and fruit junkie and am fine without meat. The bread I buy is 100% whole grain and I look for high fiber. Oatmeal or eggs with toast is my usual breakfast. I don’t drink alcohol, sodas of any kind, fruit juices or sports beverages. It’s only coffee in the morning and water the rest of the day. My one vice is coconut milk French Vanilla creamer. It’s almost non-negotiable!!
Kimberly, Lake Tahoe, CA of fiftyjewels.com
Alexandra: Wow, that is pretty detailed. You sound quite healthy, so perhaps it’s a matter of some tweaks to your exercise regimen and diet, not major changes.
Write down everything you are eating, and I mean everything, including 2 sips of wine, 1 bite of Ben & Jerry’s, and 3 almonds. Just the awareness of what you’re eating will create change. You need to find out where you are sabotaging yourself, as oatmeal and eggs aren’t the issue, and you already seem knowledgeable about the hidden sugars/ calories in fruit juice.
Once you’ve tracked your food choices for 3 days, look through your list to see what you can eliminate without obsessing or getting into a battle with yourself. Be aware that a 350 kcal Ding Dong won’t give you the energy, satiety or nutrients that two 390 kcal stalks of celery with peanut butter will. As your creamer is important to you, keep it. I suspect you will need to look at portion sizes more than food choices.
People who are successful at keeping weight off after weight loss aim for 1.5 – 2 pounds loss per week. Thirty divided by 7 weeks is 4 pounds per week. Probably not sustainable in the long run, but if you get a deficit of 14,000 calories per week, you can do it. I do not recommend or endorse this solution. As the possessor of an advanced counseling degree, I’m all about the positive, not the negative, and I’d rather see you feel successful about losing a realistic 15 pounds than unsuccessful if you aim for 30 and reach 15. Can you get a 7,000 per week deficit?
Kymberly: Well, Kimberly, not only do we share a name, but also a similar dilemma. Like you, I have always been active, am 56, and gained 30 pounds in the last few years even though I eat more healthfully than ever before. So I hear you … except that part about wearing a bikini! One-pieces are my friend.
My sister’s key tips are intake focused. My suggestions are output oriented. You need to sub in high intensity interval training at least twice a week and get busy with that strength training that you are fortunate to already value.
Walks are great, (and what I can manage while I await surgery for some knee issues). In your case, you need to change things up as you walk. Get specific cardio plans for weight loss here and here. Basically you need to alternate your long, steady state walks with shorter, heart pounding interval hikes that push your heart rate as high as you can safely tolerate for about 2-3 minutes, then level out. Repeat several times. Push yourself by climbing a steep hill, either outdoors or on cardio equipment such as a treadmill or elliptical. Pick up the pace for a power walk. Strap on a backpack that is loaded and walk hard and fast. If you are kayaking, paddle as if sprinting for a finish line.
Find routes, exercise modes, and paces that vary so you constantly force your body to adapt upwards to the new demands. Alternate the long, semi-comfy routes with shorter, harder ones.
As we age, strength training gets more, not less important. While overloading all major muscles at least two times a week is fantastic, you need to aim for at least three times per week given your time frame and goals. Instead of performing single joint, isolated moves (such as hamstring curls) do multi-joint, or compound exercises, such as squats or lunges.
Since you like resistance training, try this Tabata workout from our friend Tamara Grand. It’s a high intensity, low impact routine that will give your metabolism a calorie-burning jolt.
Alexandra and Kymberly:
Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Not only will you be sleeping instead of eating late-night snacks, you will also be giving the hormones leptin and ghrelin time to do their work. You already know about Sugar. Now you know about Sleep. The other “S” is Stress, which you discovered was an issue during that big work project. Consider listening to meditation music or words while you’re on those walks.
In fact, meditation has just been shown to help with losing weight– pretty exciting stuff, right??!! — so consider adding even 5 minutes of meditation or guided visualization to your day. Our meditation post was written before the recent research on meditation aiding weight loss. Click though, as you will find some good ways to begin a practice.
Alexandra: Choose from above the activities and methods that work for you and that you will actually do. Maybe you’ll enjoy a dance class. Maybe you’ll prefer to do high intensity interval training by yourself in the weight room. Maybe you’ll change the timing of when you eat that fruit.
And of course, take a look at a few of our previous posts that help answer your question:
Lose 10 Pounds in 4 Weeks
Best Workouts to Burn Fat
Do You Have a Stuck Metabolism?
Keep us posted on your progress, as we’d love to help you celebrate your successes. Besides, research has proven that making your goals public increases your chances of success. Okay, I just snuck Accountability in as bonus Tip #7.
Now we’re off to locate our swimsuits for all those hikes we’ll do in Hawaii when we sneak ourselves along on your vacation.
Take your own vacay twice a week when you subscribe to our blog. Enter your email in the right column and start reaching your active aging goals starting …. whenever you take our advice!
Kymberly just gave a fabulous workshop at Rancho la Puerta about gait, and I thought I’d share some of her tips so that you can figure out if your gait is aging you or supporting your continued youthfulness.
Walk across the room, turning at the wall and repeating the walk for several rounds. How quickly do you go? How comfortable are you, especially at the knees, lower back and neck? How small or big is your stride? Notice whether or not you have to touch the wall to turn, make a wide circle, or pivot quickly. Pay attention to your balance. Be aware of your stride length, especially if it’s small, which means you don’t trust your balance, though you are actually at MORE risk of falling with a shortened stride.
Go watch SpongeBob Squarepants and take a look at how he propels himself forward. See those flapping arms? Nothing going on from shoulder to elbow, but lots of movement from elbow to hands. If this is you, we bet your elbows hurt after a long walk. Same thing if you’re a wrist flapper. Ideally, you want a long arm that reaches out in front of you. And… you want the arm in back to be reaching behind just as far. At the top of your arm swing, you should have a triangle formed from both hands and the shoulder. In other words, what goes on behind you is as important as what’s happening in front.
What do you see when you focus? What do you hear? What is powering your forward movement? It’s possible you favor one side, especially if you’ve had any kind of leg injury. If you can get someone to listen as you walk (without looking at you), a limp or compensation just might reveal itself. So often we are asked why the left leg (for example) hurts when it was the right leg that had the injury. The answer is that the left leg is overtired from being overused due to overcompensation. So get over it!
Use power muscles to power your stride. Are you using your front or back leg to propel? If you want a shapely booty, push from the glutes. As we mention in our post “Why is My Body in Pain After Running and Walking,” running and walking require different muscle emphasis. Pulling from the hamstrings on the front leg will just make them hurt, and might also cause pain behind the knee. Besides, who doesn’t want a shapelier tush?
Slow your walk way down and observe what happens throughout your body. Does your head bob forward or side to side? Maybe your walk improves. Maybe it falls to pieces. Notice if your arms keep moving or freeze in place. Especially note whether you start to move homolaterally (same arm and leg go forward rather than opposing arm and leg). Do you feel less or more stable?
If your head is forward and down, that’s where you are headed (hahaha. so punny). Your head needs to be above your body, not in front of it. Not only does “text neck” increase your risk of migraines and back strain, it also increases your risk of falling. Ever notice those people who are hunched over with their faces actually looking at the ground? See how their elbows are back behind them for balance? They didn’t get that way overnight. To check if that hunchback will be you, do the chin check. Stand in neutral position (read “Finding Neutral Spine” for a full explanation). Put a finger to your chin. Hold your finger in place. Retract head 2-3 times. Mark any gap. A big gap means you are a forward head thruster. A small gap means you win free neutral spine for life!
Remember how we mentioned 5 tips ago that what goes on behind you is as important as what’s in front? Almost everyone knows the posture zip trick for the front, but do you finish that zzzzzzip by going down the back? Once again, you’re in luck, as we wrote a post (with video !!!) about the zip trick as part of our posture series.
Time to zip up this post. We hope you feel giddy about your gait as you trot around the block on Turkey Day.
If you want your very own professional gait assessment, contact us at email@example.com. For $59 U.S. we’ll give you a complete, detailed assessment based on a video you’ll send us. And for free we’ll tell you that good posture makes you look 5 pounds slimmer, more confident, and sexier.
No matter where you live, walking outside is beneficial, even if you have to strap on snowshoes on the first day of Fall! And the nice thing about where you live is that your town has a few hiking paths that only locals seems to know about. Santa Barbara is no exception. Even though we’ll never get a chance to strap on snowshoes (well, we can strap them on, but we can’t walk around on snow on them unless we drive far away), we at least have the benefit of some fantastic walking spots. I’m going to share three that will put you “in the know” for the day you come to town: one on the beach, one at a lake, and one in the mountains.
From late October to late February you can see the monarch butterflies in this preserve that has 137 acres of open space. Parking and admission are free, and docents give educational talks on the weekends during butterfly season.
High above Santa Barbara, you get here by driving to the top of Hwy 154 (the Pass), and turning left onto West Camino Cielo. One of the few easily accessible boulder fields (we’ve taken a 4 year old and 84 year old), you follow a trail in for ¼ mile, then climb on, in, over, and even inside the rock outcroppings. Or just have a picnic and watch the sunset.
If you need comfy, cute shoes for your outdoor adventures, we love Ahnu. Not an affiliate link; we just love them. Check them out and decide for yourself. Then lace up and get outside!
Starting tomorrow and ending on October 12, I have pledged to walk (or swim or run or bike or dance or skateboard or surf or even skip to my lou) at least one mile per day. Of course, along with this is what I call The Whole Point, which is to raise money (mine goes to Cottage Children’s Hospital).
We’ve written a lot about how walking is great for the health benefits, weight loss, keeping weight off, and cognitive skills, so it’s pretty cool that the more I walk and help my OWN health, the more I can potentially help a sick kid.
My younger son had adaptive horse riding classes both in Oregon and in Santa Barbara throughout his elementary school years, which helped a lot with his balance, muscle tone and confidence. Some of the fees were covered by donations from … “they,” whoever THEY were – people in the community who cared. It’s my turn again to be part of the “they,” and I hope you’ll throw a few dollars toward my fundraising goal of $272. By “throw” I mean “click this link.”
If this were a radio ad, the next bit would be spoken very quickly, yet with excellent enunciation – All donations are tax-deductible and collected securely by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
As to the extra 27th mile, Miracle Marathon adds a special touch by rounding up one more mile “for the kids.” Besides, it would be impossible to walk for 26.2 days, unless I wanted to wake up in the middle of the night or something equally annoying.
I sincerely hope you will donate to my Miracle Marathon journey. And if you don’t donate, I sincerely hope you at least get outside for a walk and feel a wee bit guilty. I was raised with guilt and it works! Anyway, I’m an optimist, so I’ll just thank you in advance. Thank you.
Son #2 and I went to Tucson to see my cousins. One cousin is foolish enough to live there (don’t get upset Tucson friends, you have to admit it’s way too hot in summer), and the other flew in from D.C. We decided to drive because we have air conditioning. And because I didn’t realize it was a 12, not 8 hour drive. I should have trusted you Google Maps.
No matter your means of conveyance (that’s gotta be old western talk, right?), you’ll want to visit the following three places:
The largest privately owned air museum in the U.S., it has over 300 military, civilian and commercial aircraft. In the main hangar you’ll see a variety of planes, ranging from a Lear Jet that was owned and flown by the first woman to get type-rated in a Lear, to a homemade Bumble Bee plane that took the record for world’s smallest plane in 1984. Two WWII hangars (Pacific and European) are dedicated to the history and aircraft from the war. The SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and B-29 Bomber are spectacular, and made doubly so if you can get a docent to tell you their stories.
My favorite was the 390th Memorial Museum hangar, as I’m a history buff way more than an aviation fan. The POW exhibit and memorial plaques were especially moving.
More than half of the planes are outdoors, so we did a quick walk around due to the heat. You can take a tram tour of the 80+ outdoor acres, but we didn’t want to spend an hour sitting on the tram. We did find a number of Air Force One (so fancy) planes, plus a bunch of commercial planes from defunct airlines (remember TWA and PanAm?).
In the early 90s, scientists were sealed up inside the biosphere for two years to measure survivability in a contained environment. Now owned by the University of Arizona as a research facility (mostly for climate change studies), it’s still a contained environment with a rainforest, desert, ocean, and their support systems – air flow “lungs”, energy center, water & life experiments.
We learned that preventing ultraviolet light (for human benefit) was detrimental to the bees and coral, both of which died out. We also heard that the trees were flopping over until the researchers realized they needed wind, which then had to be created. We also found out that the immense amount of concrete supporting the biosphere absorbed so much of the oxygen while curing that oxygen had to be pumped in via the “lungs” so the scientists could survive. And according to my cousin, the second scientific “two-year sleepover” only lasted 6 months partly because the scientists didn’t get along. He also told me that one of the scientists was caught ordering take-away pizza. I don’t know if it was thin or thick crust. And in case you’re wondering, Biosphere1 is that big blue thing – earth.
Wake up early and get to this (mainly) outdoor museum when it opens at 7:30. Not only will the animals be awake, but it’s cool enough for you to remain outside for several hours. Not cool, just cool enough, by which I mean tolerable upper 80s, lower 90s. I think we were the very first visitors of the day, which meant that the docents were happy to talk to us for as long as we wanted. Some of the museum is like a zoo in that the animals are in outdoor enclosures that separate them from us. As you can see from my photo collage, we saw all kinds of critters. The mountain lion paced back and forth in front of us for quite a while, rubbing against the viewing glass. I am pretty sure he was purring.
Along the pathway, we saw some commotion with a squirrel and several museum workers. They told us that a squirrel was protecting its nest from a poaching rattlesnake. We made the mistake of asking where the snake was. So, yeah, about 2 feet in front of us, in the grass. Not separated from humans. After we backed way up, Karl the Docent with the Animal Grabbers drove up in his golf cart and plucked the snake up and put it into a box, on its way to a part of the desert where humans did not necessarily wander.
The Desert Museum also has an aquarium, botanical gardens, walking trails, aviaries, a cave/ geology center, art center, and demonstrations. Eighty-five percent of the museum is outdoors, so we had hats, sunblock and lots of water. And by 10:30 a.m. we were back in the car and on the road home to California.