• 81°

JODY HOLTON — Let’s take a walk for your health

Does the thought of going to the gym fill you with dread? Really not into the whole “working out” thing? But you really do want to feel more fit and healthy?

Here is a little good news. Walking for 2.5 hours a week — that’s just 21 minutes a day, 7 days a week — can cut your risk of heart disease by 30 percent.

In addition, this do-anywhere, no-equipment-required activity has also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and keep you mentally sharp.

All you need is loose comfortable clothing, shoes that give good support, a flat surface and a safe-well-lit area to walk in.

If you are lucky enough to have a good walking area around your home, get on out there and get moving. The malls are a favorite as the temperature is always right, safe and the terrain is flat.

I live near a school and the parking lot is filled daily with walkers of all ages, young moms with strollers to senior adults. Here in Port Arthur, we have the seawall that offers a beautiful setting that can’t be beat.

Walking can have a bigger impact on disease risk and various health conditions than just about any other remedy that’s readily available to you. What’s more, it’s free and has practically no negative side effects.

A University of Utah study in 2014 found that for every minute of brisk walking that women did throughout the day, they lowered their risk of obesity by 5 percent. No more “I don’t have time” excuses!

Start walking and you’ll be helping to make your community stronger, too. Social scientists have found that as more people take to the streets, neighborhood crime rates fall and the local economy improves.

It’s also a wonderful way to meet new people and connect with neighbors. Take a walk with your children after dinner. It can promote better communication, reduce behavior problems and improve academic performance.

Walking can even help your mood. A number of studies have found that it’s as effective as drugs for decreasing depression. It can help relieve everyday stresses, too.

Tension starts to ease as the road stretches out in front of you. Mood-elevating endorphin levels increase. Many people report that walking helps clear the mind, too — you may even come up with the solution to a problem that’s been bugging you.

Have you been sedentary for a while? Don’t think you can walk for 21 minutes on your first time out?

Then start out with 10 minutes, and then add a couple of minutes more every few days. You will be up to those 21 minutes and more in no time at all. Add to that, a walk of 30 minutes or more. Before you know it, brisk walking can become a part of your daily routine. And you’ll reap plenty of benefits.

There are some great apps for your smart phone that help you track your walk, show distance and even calories burned.

So, put on your shoes, step out the door, and rediscover the joys of walking. Stay healthy, my friends.

Jody Holton writes about health for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at jholton3@gt.rr.com.