Walking to reach your fitness goals

But in life I think if we “climb on our goals”, we’ll be more likely to reach them.

We’re all struggling to cope with the stress of upended lives, risk of a new and menacing illness, economic instability, and an unpredictable future. Most of us are actively pursuing ways to take care of our bodies and minds so the stress doesn’t overwhelm us.

The Mayo Clinic reminds us that physical activity is one key way to do that.

Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Find an activity that includes movement, such as dance or exercise apps. Get outside in an area that makes it easy to maintain distance from people — such as a nature trail or your own backyard.


I’ve had to adjust my activity routine since my dance studio is closed, as well as the recreation center, that I had just joined prior to the physical distancing protocol started. I already liked to walk, so I have increased that to almost daily. I have a treadmill that I can use when the weather is not so nice, but I prefer to walk outside.

So in this post I’m going to share some photos from my walking journeys with reminders about the benefits of walking.

a walking trail at a park, sign advised social distancing
Multiple signs at the park reminded us to stay 6 feet apart, and everyone did.
Walking-maybe the best form of exercise

The best type of exercise is one that you will do on a regular basis. Walking is considered one of the best choices because it’s easy, safe, and inexpensive.

Brisk walking can burn as many calories as running, but it is less likely to cause injuries than running or jogging. Walking doesn’t require training or special equipment, except for appropriate shoes.

feet in walking shoes, crossed on a bench
I like Skechers for walking but other brands are probably just as good, just choose one that fits well and is comfortable; wear good socks to, to help prevent blisters.

Walking is an aerobic and weight-bearing exercise, so it is good for your heart and helps prevent osteoporosis.

Read more about taking care of your heart at this previous post.

7 Keys to a Healthy Heart

Seniors age 65 and older should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) every week. That averages out to about 30 minutes on most days of the week. 

a bright blue wood rocking chair on a porch
Yes, I meet the requirement to be called a “senior”. Remember in high school,when that was a good thing? This rocker looked inviting but I kept walking.

Low-impact activities such as walking, biking, or swimming generally go easy on your joints.

handlebars of a bicycle, and iris flowers
Dr Aletha in her bicycle helmet

One day I biked instead of walked; a little harder to take photos though.

Include physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Park the car farther away at work or stores.
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Walk to do errands.
a USPS truck parked on a street
The mail carrier was also out walking, part of his daily routine for sure.

Get going and keep going

Everyone can benefit from physical activity. For most people, it is possible to begin exercising on your own at a slow pace. If you have never exercised before, start with a 10-minute period of light exercise. A brisk walk every day is a good first exercise. Slowly increase how hard you exercise and for how long.

  • You can walk outdoors, at home on a treadmill, alone, or with friends and family.
  • Make it fun. Listen to music or books on tape while you walk or jog. Watch TV or a video while you exercise.
a geometric cat chalked on a sidewalk
chalk rainbow drawn on a sidewalk
a tiger face drawn with chalk on a sidewalk
The heart of walking

Aerobic exercise causes you to breathe more deeply. It makes your heart work harder to pump blood. Aerobic exercise also raises your heart rate (which burns calories). Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, running, dancing, swimming, and bicycling.

a bush with bright red blooms, shaped like a heart
I posted this photo on Facebook and someone commented that it is shaped like a heart. What do you think?
Keep your distance

Honor social distancing guidelines
recommended by public health officials
to stop or slow down the spread of
contagious diseases. If you are running, walking or
hiking outside, try to do so in a location
that is not crowded. If you encounter
others while out exercising, maintain six
feet distance.

a sign says"never climb on goals"

This sign was on the fence at a soccer field where it’s good advice. But in life I think if we “climb on our goals”, we’ll be more likely to reach them. Sometimes “goals” do fall over, hopefully not causing serious injury or death, but often disappointment and discouragement. If your goals fail, climb back up and try again. Just not on the soccer field please.

Visit FamilyDoctor.org

The fitness advice in this post was taken from FamilyDoctor.org, the patient information site sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians, of which I am a member. Please visit the site for more advice about exercise, fitness, and other health concerns , including coronavirus disease. (I have no financial interest in the site.)

exploring the HEART of fitness by walking

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A 5 year love affair-with healthy eating

I still enjoy food.  Very much.  Maybe even more than before because now I appreciate my food as fuel to live a healthy and active and even beautiful (in the eyes of the beholder) life!  I still enjoy the tastes, even more so because I choose only the best.  My plate is colorful with roasted veggies and fresh fruits and salad greens.  I enjoy grilled lean chicken, steak and seafood.  My carbs are high fiber, full of flavor and texture.  I no longer long for the processed foods full of white flour, sugar and fat.

 

One of my all time most viewed posts is a story about my friend Pam and her weight loss journey using the Weight Watchers program.  After successfully reaching and maintaining her weight goal, she started coaching others who have been equally successful. Recently, she was honored for 5 years as a coach.

a smiling woman holding flowers
Pam’s clients showed appreciation for  her for 5 years of service.

 

 

Many of us would like to weight less than we do, but some people struggle with severe excess weight that threatens their health and keeps them from enjoying life as they would like. These are usually people whose BMI, body mass index, is 30 or more. For people with diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and osteoarthritis, even lower BMI can put them at excess disease risk.

Body mass index chart
A BMI of 30 or more represents obesity. BMI Chart created by Vertex42.com. Used with permission.

 

 

The United States Preventive Services Task Force, USPSTF,  recently reviewed weight loss methods and made a recommendation to physicians about how to help patients with weight.

The Task force encourages  doctors to refer patients for  “intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions” to successfully lose weight. 

What exactly does “intensive, multicomponent” mean? 

 

 

A Patient Page in JAMA explains it this way- Interventions that are

  • done in a group or individual setting, provided in person or virtually, and use print or online materials
  • occurs over 1 to 2 years and with 1 to 4 sessions per month
  • includes counseling about nutrition and exercise as well as education about how to self-monitor both of these components.
  • includes help to identify barriers to weight loss, and  help with problem solving related to challenges
  • support from other people who are also working on weight loss
  • education  focused not only on weight loss but also on weight maintenance after interventions are completed.

 

 

Here is a link to the page-

Behavioral Interventions for Weight Loss

 

 

a lady in bare feet standing on a scalefeet in sports shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t used Weight Watchers but from what I understand about it, this is the type of program they offer. I’m not necessarily promoting WW, as they are called now, but if you want to lose weight I suggest looking for a program that includes these features. It certainly has worked for Pam and those she coaches.

“If we want to be people’s partners in what healthy means to the, it has to be about more than just weight. It has to be a total approach to how they can live their healthiest, best lives.”

Mindy Grossman, CEO of WW, quote taken from TIME magazine, October 15, 2018

 

 

And here is my story about Pam and her break-up with junk food.

How I “broke up” with junk food

and fell in love with healthy eating.

Meet my friend Pam. My husband and I met Pam and her husband in a ballroom dance class. I was immediately captivated by her radiant smile and Southern charm. Since then I have learned more about her and watched an amazing transformation in her life.

Pam and I attending a wedding at the dance studio
Pam and I  at the dance studio

 

 

Pam graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts from Mississippi State University in 1980. With a major in Communications, she started her career as a writer and Account Executive for advertising and public relations agencies in Mississippi and in Oklahoma where she moved after marrying.  She was the Marketing Director for a large medical clinic for several years. Since 1995, she has enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom with involvement in PTA, church and community. In 2012, she was named Volunteer of the Year by her community public school system.

But despite such a charmed life, there was a struggle, one that Pam shares with many people. In this blog I have discussed the physical and emotional consequences of excess weightyou will be encouraged by Pam’s success story which she so generously shares with me and you.

“Breaking up is hard to do. ” By Pam Whitson

“I was happily married to the love of my life and should have been having the time of my life.   Sadly, my self-confidence and my happiness had been stolen, and I was the thief.

For over two decades, I robbed myself of peak energy, vitality, health and beauty by totally disregarding my intake of food.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I thought about what I should do.  I spent money on self-help tapes, gym memberships and weight loss programs from the practical to the extreme.  I whined and wished about it constantly.  And it didn’t help knowing that I was not alone; almost half of adults are overweight or obese.

And I had occasional moments of success.  Like the time I was within four pounds of leaving the “obese” category. (Obese is a BMI, body mass index, of 30 or higher)  After months of hard work, I ran to Glamour Shots for the mid-1990s version of a sequin and big hair make-over.  On the way home from my triumphant photo session, I stopped by my favorite barbecue place and started eating my way right back to where I was before.  I gained all the weight I had lost back and more.

I joked my way through feelings of depression, because  I had an unhealthy relationship with food.    I thought about it way too much.  I ran to it for instant gratification.  I was too in love with the tastes, the textures, the sheer delight of food.  Even now, I love to grocery shop.  One of my favorite places on the planet is the cereal aisle of the grocery store.

cereal boxes in a store
“One of my favorite places on the planet is the cereal aisle of the grocery store.”

 

 

Finally, at age 53, after twenty years of carrying way too much weight for my 5’7 ½” (1.7 meters) (yes, the half inch counts!) frame, I was ready for a change.  Really ready.  Change isn’t easy.  Change hurts.  I walked into Weight Watchers and pretended it was my first time ever.  I read everything.  I listened and participated.  I went to every meeting.  I hung around afterwards and pestered my leader for every little nugget of information I could cling to.

Pam before weight loss
Pam and her daughter

 

 

I rejoined Weight Watchers in July, 2012, with 20 pounds (9 kg) still off from a previous Weight Watcher effort. I lost 40 pounds (18 kg) in 4 1/2 months to be at goal before Thanksgiving! I learned to maintain this loss during the required six week maintenance period with Weight Watchers and became an official Lifetime Member before the year’s end of 2012. This meant a lot to me because my birthday is New Year’s Day. How wonderful to start the year at a healthy weight!

At Weight Watchers I learned I could change.  I could change what I put in my grocery basket.  I could change what I ordered in restaurants.  I could change how much I moved.

I could change my relationship with food for good.

I still enjoy food.  Very much.  Maybe even more than before because now I appreciate my food as fuel to live a healthy and active and even beautiful (in the eyes of the beholder) life!  I still enjoy the tastes, even more so because I choose only the best.  My plate is colorful with roasted veggies and fresh fruits and salad greens.  I enjoy grilled lean chicken, steak and seafood.  My carbs are high fiber, full of flavor and texture.  I no longer long for the processed foods full of white flour, sugar and fat.

By pairing healthy eating with increased physical activity, I changed my weight dropped from 226 lbs (102 kg) to 150 lbs (68 kg).  Now 70 pounds (31 kg) lighter and at a healthy BMI of 23, I feel so much happier and healthier.

But once I started eating better, even before I was near my goal weight, my self-esteem and confidence were instantly restored.  Just knowing that I had a plan gave me optimism and excitement.  I’ve been at goal for almost three years and I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or even a crisp cookie). And I now stay about 10 pounds (4.5 kg) below goal as a safety net.

Pam on a well deserved vacation
Pam on a well deserved vacation

 

 

In addition to my daily walks, I enjoy ballroom dancing, Jazzercise, swimming and an occasional bike ride.  I wear a Fitbit and accomplish 15,000 steps a day.

I’ve been a Weight Watcher leader for two and a half years and just LOVE it! I never imagined I would do this; you might as well as told me I would become an astronaut. While helping me stay at a healthy weight, I enjoy the privilege of making new friends and helping other people be their most confident and healthy selves.

Just for fun, I’ve started a Park Walking group that explores different parks in our city every two weeks. We took a summer break (Oklahoma gets real hot in the summer) but will be back on the trails in September. Along with my awesome Weight Watcher members, I’m enjoying a new healthy relationship with food for good. ”

Pam leading a Weight Watchers meeting
Pam is now a WW coach

 

 

Weight Watchers may not be the answer for everyone, but Pam’s idea of changing our relationship with food should be a part of any weight management plan.  Our eating habits affect our health in other ways, so even if you are not overweight, using food appropriately is important.

Physical activity  has health benefits beyond weight loss. I joined Pam’s walking group and find it a fun way to exercise and make new friends. (My favorite walking shoe is Go Walk by Skechers.)  In addition to social dancing with our husbands, Pam and I were in a ladies dance team. We performed a Western theme dance routine to the song “These Boots are Made for Walking” . That’s so appropriate for someone who walked her way from a BMI of 35 down to 25. If she can do it, so can you.

( This post contains affiliate product links; purchase through these links pays a commission to this blog; thank you)

 

Our son introduced my husband and I to Hello Fresh delivery meal kits and we’ve enjoyed the convenience, taste, variety, and quality. The meals feature lots of fresh vegetables with vegan  and “fit” choices. We think we are eating healthier and ever with less work. Here is a link through which you can get $40 off your first order.

HELLO FRESH OFFER 

 

Thanks for letting me introduce you to my friend Pam. We would love to hear your weight management stories. Please share in the comments or send me a message if you want it kept anonymous. Remember, support from others is an important step toward success.

Dr. Aletha