Heart health is something we all need. If our hearts aren’t pumping like they should–the quality of life recedes and overall health is affected. A heart muscle that is frequently exercised is a gift that spreads health throughout the body. And sharing exercise with someone you care about has its own rewards that also affect the heart.
On The Physical Side – A Quick Review
Regular walking or some other form of exercise that increases your heart rate is good because:
- cardio exercise improves the ability of your blood vessels to dilate as they respond to hormones that flood your body during exercise
- vascular wall function and the ability of your body to supply oxygen to your muscles as you walk, run, lift weights etc. is enhanced
- the body’s ability to take in and utilize oxygen becomes more efficient and you can do daily activities with less fatigue
- exercise increases your very tolerance for exercise
- body weight is reduced, lessening your chance for developing type 2 diabetes
- insulin sensitivity increases, thus your body uses insulin more efficiently
- blood pressure and bad LDL cholesterol is reduced;
- good HDL cholesterol increases
- and exercise improves your balance and reduces your risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone mass.
On The Spiritual, Mental, Mood Side, This is what exercise does:
- improves your mood
- lowers your risk for some types of cancer
- gives you more energy
- helps ward off dementia or other memory problems
- helps you sleep better.
I have always been a walker–maybe because running didn’t appeal to me, maybe because over time I’ve developed a sensitive tendon in one foot, so running is really out of the picture. In my raising-children days, I did dancercize and I loved that, but when I went through a time with a back that protested, I added a Walkman to my walk and the presence of the music enhanced my speed and definitely my mood.
On my Flossmoor walk, I knew every house, watched as flowers bloomed and died, trees lost their leaves in a fiery fall blaze and winter snows brightened the lawns but sometimes made walking difficult. The terrain was totally flat and I needed to increase my pace to elevate my heart rate. Then in the late 90s, we moved to Des Moines, Iowa. Though we were still in the Midwest, Des Moines is very hilly and stepping outside my front door, no matter which direction I chose, a hill presented itself. So now, equipped with an IPod, off I went, my heart rate increasing within minutes of leaving the house.
But when my husband retired and our son had moved back to Chicago, our daughters already settled–one on the east coast and one on the west–a big decision faced us. Our grandchildren were in California and though it’s crazy expensive, we thought about the warm weather and our ability to get out and exercise–not by joining a gym which we had done in both Midwest cities, but simply by walking out our front door.
And here we are: living in Southern California and taking advantage of paths, parks, trails, elevations, ponds and arroyos, you name it.
Most days, my husband and I walk together. (I still have my IPod, but I only use it when I walk on my own.) Our walks help our hearts, because not only do they have a physical impact, but they also provide a time for conversation and sharing. Yes, we are sometimes silent when we walk, praying or meditating, mentally planning the rest of the day or working through some thought process. But at the beginning and at the end of our walk, we are always sharing what we see, making plans for the days, weeks–the life ahead, always grateful that we are together.
Walking can help your heart in two ways–physical and mental. So find a walking partner and get out there–whether it’s a mall in winter, or the snow packed sidewalks, your feet wearing Yaktrax, getting out in the air and sharing time while your hearts beat faster just has to be a really good thing!
Thanks to John Havey for all photos