Walk your way to well-being

Wed, 03/31/2021 - 2:15pm

All these benefits can eventually be yours by walking every day: less stress, less body fat round your middle, lower your blood pressure, improve your mobility and range of motion.

Walking five days a week for just 30 minutes helps strengthen the heart. But once you get started (especially walking in gorgeous Midcoast Maine), you won’t want to stop breathing in that fresh air, often laced with salt here on the coast, and enjoying the scenery (something else the Midcoast has in spades). And do you know what else it does? It increases oxygen flow through the body, and lift your spirits with the increased levels of cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, according to Women’s Health.

Walking technique and posture are important, too. Here are a few pointers from the Mayo Clinic on form. Keep those shoulders back and straighten up. Keep your head up and keep your neck, shoulders and back relaxed, don’t hold yourself stiffly. Slightly bend your arms at the elbow and swing those arms! All the while, your stomach muscles will tighten (just a bit).

The right footwear is as important as form – and the options are staggering. Think about what you need in a walking shoe: Do you have high arches or are you flat-footed? Do you have a back condition? Check out the ins and outs of athletic shoes: the achilles tendon protector reduces stress on the Achilles tendon by locking the shoe around the heel. Then there’s the heel collar for cushioning ankles and keeping the shoe from slipping off. Usually these are made of leather, synthetics and mesh. And ... bonus: Mesh walking shoes are lighter on your feet while giving you excellent ventilation!

Insoles cushion and support arches and your foot. Midsoles are all about reducing the impact of the ground to the foot as you walk. The outsole is your traction and different brands have their own groovy treads and tread patterns. And now we’ve reached the toes. You need a roomy, round toe box to keep away those nasty calluses.

All athletic shoes are best bought in-store rather than from a catalog or website. They all fit differently and the walking shoe your exercise partner wears may not work for you. Sometimes you will buy online because you’re always running out of time, and discover the heel collar is too stiff (I once had a pair of walking shoes like that and the collar never loosened up – lesson learned: Some things cannot be bought sight, and fit, unseen.

Oh! And wear the kind of socks you’ll be in when you are wearing the shoe, otherwise you might end up with a snugger or less comfortable fit than you would like.

Locally, Gimbel’s Log Cabin Shoes and Janson’s Clothing Store carry athletic shoes. Off our lovely peninsula, Dick’s Sporting Goods has a wicked large selection; Target; and you can also fire up your favorite search engine to find what you’re looking for!