Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Walk away the pounds

Retirees face a never ending battle of the bulge as our metabolisms get more sluggish and our activity levels decrease. Retirement means more time to play tennis or ski or run marathons for some lucky folks who still have healthy joints. For others whose joints have been damaged over the years by overuse or arthritis, those vigorous activities are no longer tolerated. So we have to find other ways to exercise and maintain fitness in retirement.

In an earlier post, I mentioned how my sedentary husband Mark has started a walking program in a last ditch attempt to lose some weight. He proudly announced to me yesterday that he has lost 8 pounds in the past 7 weeks! And this with very little effort in terms of dieting. Basically the only thing that has changed about his daily routine is the inclusion of a moderately paced 30-minute walk.

There is research to back this up, but somehow anecdotal reports are even more convincing! Mark is certainly a believer now.

An interesting bit of research suggests that three 10-minute mini walks are even more effective than a 30-minute walk. This has something to do with waking up your metabolism and encouraging the body to burn fat more efficiently.

Sounds simple, and indeed it is! And here is a great idea: Use walking poles to help support your body weight, decrease the stress on your joints, and improve balance and stability on uneven surfaces. Using poles makes you feel more secure, and therefore makes walking feel easier.

But here’s a very exciting finding from some new research out of the Cooper Institute in Dallas: Using poles actually boosts the number of calories burned by 40%! Your body has to recruit muscles from your core, abdominal muscles, upper body, arms and back when you use the poles. This is such an easy and inexpensive way to add more oomph to your workout! You can just use a pair of old ski poles (there are usually some lurking somewhere in your garage or your neighbor’s), or make a modest investment in a pair of poles that are specific for hiking. These are adjustable in length, which is a useful feature for hiking up a long incline – you can shorten the poles for the ascent, and lengthen them for the descent. They can also be used as a weapon to fend off unfriendly dogs!
It is always important to consult your Primary Care Physician before beginning any new exercise program to make sure it is safe for you.

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