Walking the Camino de Santiago

Light-intensity exercise for thirty minutes a day reduces your risk of dying of any cause. A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of dying from any cause. This was the assessment by the American Heart Association in a published study conducted at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester, Michigan.

Light-intensity exercise, something that you will enjoy and do daily is the key to a longer and healthier life. A brisk walk qualifies as a light-intensity exercise. Improved blood pressure and cholesterol, improved glucose control, and several other benefits were measured by daily exercise.

This should be great news if you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Older adults find it more difficult to go to the gym, lift weights, run on a treadmill, or take cycling classes. However, walking is something that most of us can do nearly every day. Mall walking has become very popular. Join a group of like-minded senior citizens and enjoy a brisk walk and window shop. Accountability keeps you going back for more.

A second study from the University of California, San Diego, tells us that there is no need to aim for at least 10,000 steps daily to improve cardiovascular health. A minimum of 4,500 steps daily has been shown to reduce the risks of cardiovascular health in women.

The pace of walking is not as critical as you would think. It is the practice of daily exercise that is key. Seven days a week is ideal, but not many of us want to exert ourselves daily. Four days a week is considered the absolute minimum. Aim for thirty minutes of walking a day to see health improvements and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.

One interesting part of the study showed that women (average age of 79) were 38% less likely to die from a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and related cardiovascular events if they were consistently walking between 2,100 and 4,500 steps daily.

Movement is good for the heart. Sitting is not. The website, Oxygen.ie, believes it is better to walk outside rather than on a treadmill indoors. A treadmill gives you instantaneous readouts of your time, distance, and more. Indoor walking is safer. There is access to bathrooms and water fountains while indoor. Sometimes you can even watch TV while walking.

Walking outdoors has its advantages also. You will burn more calories walking outdoors for the same distance. Walking on uneven surfaces improves your stability and balance. The starts, stops, slowdowns, and avoiding obstacles improves your overall workout. Sunshine improves mood and provides extra vitamin D.

To celebrate our 70th birthdays together, my wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago. It is a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain. We decided to do this trek after seeing the 2010 movie, The Way, with Martin Sheen. We talked about it for almost two weeks before making the decision to do it. We trained for a year before doing it.

We bought good walking shoes and socks and began walking a half-hour a day. We soon found ourselves walking an hour-plus daily. Then it was a couple of hours. We built up our endurance in the equipment that we would be walking with. We bought backpacks and loaded them with weights to simulate the actual event.

We trained in Houston, Texas. We should have included hills and inclined walks, but we didn’t think of it at that time. We flew to Spain via military Space-A and took local transportation to St. Jean Pied do Port, France. We walked over the Pyrenees mountains the first day. Each day we averaged walking 18 miles. The journey was completed in 30 days with a couple of rest days along the way.

Our average walk for the first hour was 5 kilometers/hour and then it was a 4 kilometer/hour average after that. There were plenty of places to rest, eat, and drink along the way. And, the continuous opportunities to meet people from all over the world occurred hourly. We were the slowest walkers on the trail.

I am not recommending many people walk 500 miles in their later years, but it is something that can be planned and done. If you are under any doctor’s care, please discuss your exercise plans with your physician before undertaking any new exercise, even walking daily for up to 30 minutes at a time.

Walking every day for 500 days would be a major accomplishment and you don’t have to leave your neighborhood.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin

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