November 2, 2007
Table of Contents
Be a Dear
It's the time of the season when many people's thoughts turn to giving. Especially deserving of your kindness is Louisiana's Home for the Incurables, a nonprofit agency serving the historic New Orleans nursing home adopted earlier this year by SFA. Your generosity will help its elderly residents, many of whom were negatively impacted by Hurricane Katrina. One very fortunate Katrina survivor, Gumbo the cat, serves as our mascot for this endeavor. So please click on Gumbo for details on how you can help.
Walking as an Aerobic Exercise
Following is an informative article written by SFA affiliate Ellen Coven, M.A., a nationally recognized senior fitness author, educator, and dance-exercise choreographer. It is reprinted by permission of the Senior Fitness Bulletin.
The benefits of walking. The human mechanism has been designed with precise "specs" for locomotion. It is the ultimate walking machine. Walking, the most natural of body movements, recruits numerous moving parts without over-stressing the spine or joints. Walking is low-impact (1.5 times body weight) as compared to jogging (3 to 4 times body weight).
Walking is an excellent aerobic exercise with many impressive features and an impressive safety record. In recent years, walking has become the number one fitness activity in the United States. Its popularity has grown, in no small part, because of the many benefits it provides:
Preparing to walk. Performing a thorough warm-up will prepare the body for energetic walking and will help to ensure an effective, injury-free workout. The warm-up should include low-level active movements, rhythmical limbering activities, and mild conditioning exercises designed to gently engage the major joints and muscles. This can be followed by conservative stretching. Stretches should be static -- no bouncing! They may be held for 30 to 60 seconds. Remember, do not hold your breath and always check for proper body alignment.
During the aerobic walking session. Walking at the proper pace will guarantee an aerobic workout, as opposed to a stroll. Monitoring one's heart rate and/or RPE (rate of perceived exertion) can help to keep one working within the THR (target heart rate) zone. Intensity should be checked every ten minutes during the walk. Walking measured solely by distance may not produce optimal aerobic intensity levels.
After the aerobic walk. After completing an aerobic walking session, it is important to include an adequate cool-down. The cool-down brings the body's systems safely back to their normal states. Stopping abruptly can "shock" the body, causing nausea, dizziness, or other complications.
The cool-down should begin with a slow walk lasting for at least 3 to 4 minutes. After the slow walk, finish with a "post" stretch that includes a wide variety of stretching activities. Hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds and breathe evenly. The "post" stretch can aid in reducing next-day muscle soreness.
Increasing the intensity level. As endurance and strength improve, it may become harder to reach the THR zone. Intensity levels can be boosted by:
In warm weather, a lightweight sweater can be removed and tied around the waist as the body becomes warmer during the walk. Light-colored cotton clothing reflects heat and absorbs perspiration.
In cold weather, layered clothing works better to insulate the body than one heavy jacket. It also gives you the option of removing layers if you become too warm. Fine wool next to the body keeps warmth in and draws away wetness. Dark colors absorb the sun's rays. Because most heat is lost through the head and hands, remember to wear a hat and gloves.
Additonal walking wear should include: comfortable socks (cotton is a good fabric), a reflective vest when it's dark, and a small belt pouch for holding keys, tissues, and other necessities.
Time keeping. A watch is essential equipment for keeping track of total walking time. A watch to be used for periodic pulse counts must have a stop device or second hand. Watches need to be comfortable and easy to read.
Portable music player. Walking to music can establish the correct pace and help to maintain momentum. For many individuals, it makes the exercise more interesting and enjoyable. There are lots of players on the market, and prices vary. Look for one that can attach securely to a belt and has comfortable headphones. Remember to carry spare batteries. Nothing is more frustrating than to be well into your walk only to find that your music is fading! Always keep the volume low enough so that you are able to hear sounds of danger if they occur.
Walking safety. Observe all general exercise safety guidelines. Specific safety rules for aerobic walking include the following:
Experience! readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.
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