If ever a nation needed a National Walking Day, 2020 is the year. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are under orders to shelter in place. This means staying home, binge watching TV, and pretty much nothing else. By now, I’ve run through my list of movies-to-watch-when-I-have-time and I’ve decluttered most of my closets. Combine the resulting boredom with the gorgeous Spring days we have lately, and National Walking Day is the perfect excuse to get out and store up some vitamin D.
National Walking Day falls on the first Wednesday of April every year. Sponsored by the American Heart Association, this holiday encourages everyone to take a 30-minute walk as a way to kick off their commitment towards a healthier heart and body.
On this day, millions of people throughout the United States will come together to take steps to live a healthier life for themselves, their families and their communities. American Heart Association
The coolest thing about National Walking Day (and walking, in general) is that you can participate no matter where you are – at work on your lunch hour, in your neighborhood after dinner, or on a treadmill, a hiking trail or the nearest sidewalk. And, since most of us are stuck at home during the COIVD-19 pandemic, you definitely have the time!
Why National Walking Day?
According to the American Heart Association, eighty percent (!) of us don’t get enough physical exercise. Yep, we’re a lazy bunch here in the U.S.A. and that increases our risk of so many diseases and illnesses – diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack… you get the idea.
Walking, however, is one of the simplest ways to reduce these risks. In fact, walking has TONS of benefits – and you can begin a walking program, no matter your age. Just be sure to check with your physician for guidance, first.
What can you expect to gain by taking more steps every day?
- More positive feelings
- Leads to a healthier heart
- May reduce depression and anxiety
- May help chronic pain
- Boosts stamina and energy
- Controls blood sugar more effectively
- Helps joint flexibility
- Better coordination and balance
- Helps bone and muscle health
- Maintains weight
- Increased confidence
- Better social life
After reading this list, there should be no doubt about how beneficial it is for seniors to start a regular walking routine.
To get in a 30 minute walk, simply lace up your walking shoes and walk 15 minutes in one direction. After 15 minutes, turn around and walk back to the starting point. Voila! You just took the first steps toward a healthier lifestyle.
National Walking Day Ideas
Okay, I’ve convinced you to get outdoors and take a 30-minute walk on National Walking Day (yay!), but now you need a way to make it more fun. If just enjoying the beautiful spring flowers and budding trees isn’t enough for you, here are some National Walking Day Ideas:
Walk with friends (but remember to maintain a 6 foot distance between you (social distancing is The Thing right now, you know). Meet at a designated parking area, then head out. You can catch up on each other’s shelter-in-place routines while you walk.
Listen to the birds. How often do we get outside and simply listen? Most of us have music with us when we’re out, or we gab on the phone with friends, or we run through our to-do list in our heads as we hustle around. For your National Walking Day stroll, enjoy nature instead. Look for blooming flowers, listen for chirping birds or chattering squirrels, breathe in the fresh air, savor the warm sunshine on your skin.
Walk your dog. Yes, Fido has probably been cooped up inside right along with you, so take him / her along to enjoy the Great Outdoors. Walking is good for pets, too.
Walk virtually. Get your family or friends to “go along” on the walk with you.
- Set a time that everyone can walk, no matter where in the country they are.
- Use a phone app, like WhatsApp, Skype, or Facetime, then video chat with each other as you walk. (*Remember to pay attention where you are going so you don’t trip and fall, though.)
- If you can’t all walk at the same time, plan a time in the evening or the next day to call, text, or video chat. Then, swap stories of where you walked, what you saw, etc.
- You could even agree to “meet for coffee” after the walk – again, via phone app, another device such as Amazon’s Echo Show, or just by calling and chatting about each other’s walks.
Play a walking game with your friends and family. Remember those old games you played on road trips as a kid? You could do something similar on National Walking Day.
- Make up an “I Spy” list of things to find along your route – a dog, a red car, yellow daffodils, wind chimes, a yard ornament of some type, a bird feeder, etc. See who can find the most items on the list.
- Play the “license plate” game, but instead of looking for different states, look for your state’s various license plates and see how many different ones each person can find.
- Make up a walker’s version of “Bug.” My kids used to love watching for Volkswagen Bugs when we went on road trips and seeing who could spot more of them. For the walking version, you could select a certain brand or model of car, then see who finds the most.
- Play the alphabet game. Look for something beginning with the letter “A’. The next person looks for something starting with the letter “B”. And so on.
Pedestrian Safety Tips For Seniors On National Walking Day
While you’re out enjoying National Walking Day, it’s important to stay safe:
- Bring your cell phone in case you have an unforeseen problem while you are out.
- Wear sturdy shoes with good tread.
- Pay attention to your surroundings so you don’t trip and fall. This is particularly important if you are talking to someone while you are walking (either on the phone or in person).
In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that, to be safer, pedestrians should:
- Walk on a sidewalk or path when one is available. If no sidewalk or path is available, walk facing traffic and as far from cars as possible.
- Never assume drivers see you; they could be distracted or impaired. It’s best to make eye contact with drivers to make sure you are seen, and to generally be aware of your surroundings – particularly when crossing the street.
- Always cross streets at marked crosswalks or signalized intersections whenever possible; this is where drivers expect pedestrians.
- If a marked crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area, wait for a gap in traffic that allows you enough time to cross safely, and continue to watch for traffic as you cross.
- Make yourself visible by wearing bright colored clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials (especially on arms, legs, and feet) or use a flashlight at night.
Also, avoid going out in inclement weather, and check ahead of time that the intended walking route is safe.
C’mon, get healthy! Commit to a 30-minute walk on National Walking Day and you will be taking the first steps to a healthier heart and body. If you can’t do 30 minutes of walking, start with 10 minutes. Just go at an easy pace and do what you can do. The point is to get moving!
For more information on how you can participate in National Walking Day, get the How-To Guide from the American Heart Association.